At the end of the Cloudbusting video Kate Bush's character is firing an orgone cannon at the sky, filling the blue with clouds. That's rather like the IT world, where clouds melt away and reform, all the while filling the empty spaces with the services that used to be on premises.
One of the big changes to the IT cloud is the shift away from infrastructure- and software-as-a-service. Instead of blank spaces that fill with your virtual machines (and with all the maintenance you used to do still there, only multiplied by the explosion of VMs) or monolithic applications that squeeze you into a limited number of ways of working, the cloud is shifting to a world of platforms where you can build the applications your business needs, and cloud-hosted components that can help build those applications. Two of that new generation of tools are Microsoft's platform-as-a-service Azure and Twilio's growing set of telephony tools and components. Now the two have come together, with Twilio providing APIs and documentation to developers building on Azure.
Earlier this week I spoke to Twilio's Jon Plax, about how the two services are working together, and how Twilio's tooling is being delivered to Azure developers.
At heart Twilio is a set of web services, built with RESTful APIs, giving developers access to telephony tools including call routing and a customisable SMS gateway. There are libraries for most languages and platforms, and the Azure relationship gives developers access to them from familiar tools. Plax said that there'd been demand for telephony services from Azure users, who were already familiar with third-party tooling like the SendGrid email service.
Twilio's Azure tools bring the language libraries to the many of Azure's programming environments – including C# and PHP. The C# functions for Azure build on Twilio's existing standalone C# library, so existing applications using it can be ported to the cloud. That and the addition of Twilio documentation to Azure should make it easy for developers to quickly add telephony features to their applications – especially as there's sample code and demonstration applications, as well as step-by-step instructions for working with the Twilio libraries. Microsoft and Twilio have worked together to test all the code and documentation.
Plax noted that Azure users get more than the usual free trial offer, and there's an initial special deal that gives them credit for 1000 text messages or 1000 outbound telephone calls. There's no PowerShell support at the moment, so you won't be able to manage services using cmdlets, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue – as Plax says, "There are a lot of parallels between our two PaaS approaches. We're making things easier and easier, and smarter and smarter."
There's a lot here for cloud developers, but there's also an interesting side note. Microsoft is often criticised for being slow to respond, but it's taking advantage of the capabilities of the cloud to deliver Twilio support for Azure very quickly indeed. In fact it's less than two months since the two companies shook hands on their relationship, at SXSW in Austin. Less than two months from concept to reality – that's cloud time in a nutshell.