Microsoft ups cloud computing ante with Azure, 'Dallas'

Development of cloud computing platforms to begin next year

Microsoft announced that its Azure cloud computing platform will be launched into production on January 1st of 2010. Chief software architect Ray Ozzie also unveiled details of a cloud computing project, codenamed 'Dallas'.

The statements were made at the annual gathering of Microsoft developers--the 2009 PDC (Professional Developers Conference). To ensure the success of the Azure platform, Microsoft needs its army of independent developers to embrace the cloud computing paradigm, and it took advantage of the gathering to spotlight Azure and get developers interested.

Azure will officially go into production on January 1st, but the platform will be free the first month. Customers will start to be billed beginning February 1st.

To meet the anticipated demands of delivering the capacity, availability, and scalability that customers will expect from a cloud computing platform, Microsoft is hosting Azure in three regional pairs of data centers. The data centers are geographically separated for resiliency in the event of a catastrophe in one location.

Unlike some cloud computing competitors, namely Google, Microsoft's focus for Azure does not include abandoning the desktop operating system. With Azure, and Microsoft's 'three screens and a cloud' vision, the Windows operating system is still a vital component of the equation.

Microsoft's goal is to enable developers to create applications that can be used seamlessly across varying platforms. The three screens include Windows desktops, mobile devices, and TV's, and the cloud is, of course, Azure.

Ray Ozzie stated "We're moving into an era of solutions that are experienced by users across PCs, phones and the Web, and that are delivered from datacenters we refer to as private clouds and public clouds. Built specifically for this era of cloud computing, Windows Azure and SQL Azure will give developers what they need to build great applications and profitable businesses."

Toward that end, Microsoft unveiled project Dallas. Dallas adds a new element to the Azure cloud by including data-as-a-service. With Dallas, developers will be able to leverage information from a variety of sources including the Associated Press, Weather Central, NASA, National Geographic, and more.

As if that isn't enough, Microsoft also shared a peak at what the future has to offer for Azure as well. Project 'Sydney' will allow customers to connect their own servers with Azure-based data and services. AppFabric provides an infrastructure to let developers manage both local and Azure-based services. Both projects are schedule to go into beta in 2010.

Azure seems to have a little something for everyone and ups the ante for cloud computing competition. The online marketplace for business-oriented Azure apps, PinPoint.com, will compete with Salesforce.com's AppExchange. The data repository offered by Dallas may offer capabilities similar to IBM's Smart Analytics Cloud. Azure in general will offer cloud computing services to go head-to-head with cloud computing services from Google, Amazon, and AT&T.

It seems like it would be a conflict of interest for Microsoft--balancing a dominant share of the server and desktop operating system markets, as well as a dominant share of the backend server and office productivity markets, with the emerging trend to host everything from the cloud.

Microsoft appears to heading in the right direction, though, and doing a fair job convincing developers to embrace both visions simultaneously.

Tony Bradley tweets as @PCSecurityNews, and can be contacted at his Facebook page.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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