Microsoft has released a number of enhancements to Windows Azure that will make it easier to deploy and manage Hadoop clusters and integrate more mobile apps with the cloud platform.
To simplify the roll out of big data applications, Microsoft is offering a public preview of the new HDInsight service for Windows Azure, according to Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president in Microsoft's Server and Tools Business. HDInsight lets users deploy, manage and use Hadoop clusters running on Windows Azure, he saidin a blog post.
Users with a Windows Azure account can request access to the preview and once that has been granted create a cluster from within the Windows Azure Management Portal. A storage account is also required and in the current version of the preview it must reside in the East U.S. region, according to Guthrie.
A new installation will take a few minutes to create and as part of the process users need to configure the necessary virtual machines that will make up their Hadoop cluster, Guthrie said.
The latter provides a means of running a MapReduce job through a SQL-like scripting called HiveQL, which can be used to summarize, query and analyze large volumes of data.
The Hadoop distribution in Windows Azure HDInsight is for now based on the Hortonworks Data Platform 1.1.
For mobile app developers, Microsoft added the ability for pure HTML5 and Cordova/PhoneGap apps as well as Windows Phone 7.5 clients to use Windows Azure for both data storage and authentication.
The first part is possible thanks to a new Mobile Services Web client library that in addition to Internet Explorer is compatible with current versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari and PhoneGap 2.3 or later. The library has the same data querying and storage API support Microsoft offers in other native SDKs and allows user authentication via a Microsoft Account, Google, Facebook or Twitter.
The support for Windows Phone 7.5 is offered as a part of Microsoft consolidating its Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 clients on top of a single codebase using Portable Libraries, which have been designed for use on multiple platforms.
Microsoft has step-by-step widened Azure's mobile platform support outside of its own operating systems, starting with iOS and then two weeks ago Android was added with the arrival of the new Android SDK for Windows Azure Mobile Services, which is available on GitHub under the Apache 2.0 license
Microsoft is also providing Dropbox integration. A Developer can now copy source files to the Dropbox sub-folder on their computer and press the "sync" button in the Windows Azure portal to deploy them. Windows Azure will automatically build sources as needed, according to Guthrie.