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New Features and Updates to Windows Azure

Microsoft’s Cloud Computing Strategy

Windows Azure, a Platform as a Service offer, is Microsoft's cloud computing platform. It was announced at PDC 2008 where Microsoft announced some interesting improvements and additional features to its Windows Azure Platform. Microsoft is serious about its strategy on Windows Azure, as was demonstrated in the PDC keynote, which dedicated over one hour to Azure. But what exactly is Microsoft's cloud computing strategy? This article describes the new features that will be available soon on Windows Azure.

Windows Azure VM Role
A very interesting announcement was the VM Role for Windows Azure. This allows users to access their roles (both the Work- and WebRole) via a Remote Desktop. The Remote Desktop access makes maintenance of a role easier. A nice benefit is to enable developers to ease their "way into the cloud" by just moving existing virtual machines to the (Windows Azure) Cloud. The VM Role is not an IaaS offer; rather it's an extension to the existing PaaS offer.

SQL Azure
There were also several SQL Azure announcements at the PDC. The most important ones were SQL Server Reporting and SQL Azure DataSync. These features are important features for the SQL Server. Microsoft also introduced the SQL Database Manager, a lightweight SQL Database editor.

Windows Azure AppFabric
Windows Azure AppFabric now supports the Windows Server AppFabric Caching features. There were also a couple of additions to the Windows Azure Access Control. Microsoft demoed an application that consumes the Access Control with a Facebook Account and claims-based access to website functions. A great feature for hybrid clouds where organizations need to combine on-premise infrastructure and cloud services is AppFabric IP-Ranges. It enables you to integrate existing on-premise services with cloud applications.

Windows Azure Virtual Network
Maybe a game-changing feature is the Windows Azure Virtual Network. This feature allows users to integrate on-premise solutions with cloud computing solutions based on ActiveDirectory. As ActiveDirectory is an important feature for everyone working with the Windows Systems, this allows great integration between on-premise datacenters and cloud computing services. The service is called "Windows Azure Connect."

Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket
The product that was codenamed "Dallas" is now Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket. Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket allows organizations to offer their data (and sell it), and for organizations, developers and IT professionals to explore and consume data. I really like this idea I might go into detail about this product in another article. The commercial availability of Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket was announced a couple of days ago.

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More Stories By Mario Meir-Huber

Mario Meir-Huber studied Information Systems at the University of Linz. He worked in the IT sector for some years before founding CodeForce, an IT consulting and services company together with Andreas Aschauer. Since the advent of Cloud Computing, he has been passionate about this technology. He talks about Cloud Computing at various international events and conferences and writes for industry-leading magazines on cloud computing. He is Cloud Computing expert in various independent IT organizations and wrote a book on Cloud Computing covering all topics of the Cloud. You can follow Mario on Twitter (@mario_mh) or read his Blog at http://cloudvane.wordpress.com.

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