Windows Azure Unveiled. PDC Day #1 Recap

A lot of exciting things came out of day #1 at the PDC.  I’m sure you’ve already started to see/hear about the great technology that we are unveiling.  During the keynote, I saw laptops being pulled out and I’m quite sure there are tons of blogging going on in the blogosphere

Today, Ray Ozzie kicked off the 2008 PDC with a keynote that basically laid the foundation of our software plus services strategy and highlighted the key investments we’ve been making over the last few years in bringing our cloud platform to fruition.  In his talk, he focused on the landscape as we see it in 3 tiers:

  • Experience Tier – The experience tier focuses on the end-user and their user experiences with the desktop/mobile device
  • Enterprise Tier – The enterprise tier focuses on people interaction with enterprise systems and system-to-system interaction within the enterprise
  • Web Tier – The web tier focuses on leveraging the web as the backbone for next generation computing.  Our cloud computing initiative is focused on leveraging the web through providing scalable hosting services for applications services.

Windows Strata becomes Windows Azure Windows Azure

During the keynote, Ray made the “formal” announcement of the name of our new cloud platform.  For those of you who knew this as codename “Windows Strata”, the platform has now been officially branded as Windows Azure.

Windows Azure provides a hypervisor-based model for providing secure and scalable hosting services.  It separates the application/service being hosted from the underlying operating system.  It is also important to note that Azure is not only for managing server infrastructure, but also web services as well and provides an end-to-end approach for accomplishing this.  At the heart of Azure is a “Fabric controller” which dynamically manages resources within the data center to preserve the health of services/applications that are deployed to the Azure Platform.

Windows Azure will provide support for both managed (.NET) and unmanaged code which essentially allows you to host non-.NET applications within this cloud fabric.  From a developer perspective, developers will be able to take advantage of this platform locally, through the Azure SDK and supporting tools for Visual Studio, that’ll provide facilities to support the development/debugging of cloud-based applications.  Through a “publish” operation in Visual Studio, developers will be able to publish their solution to the Azure services Developer Portal.

The Azure Services Platform consists of the following platform technologies:

  • Windows Live Services
  • Microsoft .NET Services
  • Microsoft SQL Services
  • Microsoft SharePoint Services (this is not to be confused with WSS)
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services

The Azure platform should also not be confused as a replacement of our one-premise offerings, but rather a complementary, cloud-based equivalent.  our on-premise offerings as a part of our strategy include:

  • SQL Server 2008
  • BizTalk Server
  • SharePoint Server
  • Dynamics CRM
  • Windows Server
  • Systems Center

The platform will provide capabilities that allow developers to model the services deployed on the platform.  Service modeling consists of:

  • Roles and Groups (e.g. who has access to the services that are being published and what operations/actions they can perform
  • Channels and Endpoints (e.g. defining how the services will be exposed and over what transport protocols)
  • Interfaces
  • Configuration Settings

During the keynote, there were partner demonstrations of solutions that are already taking advantage of the Azure Services Platform.  Jonathan Greensted, CEO of Sentient, gave a demonstration of a solution that his company has been working on called, Bluehoo.com (http://m.bluehoo.com) that integrates cloud-based services with mobile devices.  You can download and starting playing with the solution from http://m.bluehoo.com.  In addition, Shawn Davison, VP of RedPrairie, a Supply-chain manufacturing solutions firm, demoed a “one button” product recall orchestration running on Windows Azure and leveraging .NET services like workflow.

Bob Muglia came on stage and discussed our roadmap leading into 2009+.  He focused on the theme of the “5th generation computing”.  In his discussion, he highlighted where we’ve been and where we’re going

  • 1970s – Monolithic
  • 1980s – Client-server
  • 1990s – Web
  • Today – SOA
  • 2009+ – Services

Bob’s “evolutionary” discussion provided additional context to what Ray covered in his keynote and further solidified our messaging around the Windows Azure platform and the investments that we’ll be making from now, until we ship.

What’s in Microsoft .NET Services?
.NET Services (formerly known as BizTalk Services) are a set of Microsoft hosted, scalable, developer-oriented services that provide key building blocks upon which developers can create cloud-based or cloud-aware applications.  Essentially, it breaks down into the following 3 components:

  • A full end-to-end service bus solution – Makes it easy to connect disparate applications over the internet
  • Facilities that support Identity/Access Control – Provides an easy way to control web applications and services using standards-based identity providers, including enterprise directory services such as Active Directory and web-based identity stores such as Windows Live ID
  • Workflow Services – Provides a highly scalable host for running workflows in the cloud.

What’s in SQL Services?
SQL Data services extend the capabilities of SQL Server to the cloud as web-based services, which enable you to store your data in a highly-scalable and internet-facing distributed database service infrastructure.  It contains the following key components:

  • Database
  • Data Sync
  • Reporting
  • Data Mining
  • ETL
  • Reference Data

What about Microsoft Online?
Our Microsoft Online Strategy still remains intact and will take advantage of the new Windows Azure platform as it evolves.  The Microsoft Online platform is geared at addressing many customer challenges we’ve heard, including:

  • Best in class collaboration
  • Staying up-to-date with software versions/patches/updates
  • Lower, predictable costs
  • Scarce IT resources
  • High Security
  • High Availability

NOTE: It is important to note that the current version of Microsoft Online IS NOT built on the Windows Azure platform.  Over time, it will take advantage of our investments in Windows Azure.

Can customers host Windows Azure within their own data centers?
This question was asked several times within today’s breakout sessions.  The answer to this is that as the features/capabilities of Windows Azure evolve, we (Microsoft) will take a look at the capability stack and identify key features of Windows Azure and roll it into our enterprise server products.  There is still significant value within our enterprise server platform and overtime, those products will benefit from the rich investments being made in Windows Azure.

When are we going to ship Windows Azure?
Answer: When it’s ready. 🙂

Essentially, we’re targeting some time in calendar year 2009, however, we’re largely basing our release on when our customers think that it’s ready to be released, and not a moment sooner.  We will follow a similar process that we’ve followed with CTP services we’ve already released and will be doing frequent updates.  However, the final ship date was not disclosed.

Are there any resources available to learn more about Windows Azure?
You can find more information about the Azure Services Platform, including whitepapers, SDK and tool downloads, datasheets, and a link to sign-up for a test/dev account to the Windows Azure cloud platform at the Azure Services Platform website.

That about sums up day #1.  I hope you find this recap helpful.

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