Microsoft sharpens Windows Server 8, Azure cloud story

Microsoft gave enterprises a glimpse of how future applications and enterprise platforms will be brought together with Windows Server 8 and Azure.

ANAHEIM, Calif. - If IT managers in Windows shops had any doubts about Windows Server 8 and Azure serving as fundamental building blocks for their company’s cloud strategy, they don’t have any now.

From dawn to dusk at the BUILD conference here this week, Microsoft executives pounded home the message that Server 8 and Azure will have a hand-in-glove relationship that will anchor most of the company’s enterprise platforms and applications.

They also consistently pushed the cloud platform as a scalable, highly available option for application developers and IT shops, emphasizing the company is also building features into the server product that are informed by its experience engineering and managing the hosting service.

Al Gillen, an analyst at  IDC in  Framingham, Mass., commented on the increasingly strong relationship between Azure and Windows Server 8.

“We expect customers will increase their usage of Windows Azure due to synergies that Microsoft is building into both products, easing the adoption of a hybrid computing model,” Gillen said.

Azure is expected to serve as a platform for supplying data and services for Windows-based applications, as well as an identity manager for helping federate identity across a variety of Web services, according to Microsoft.

Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft’s Server & Tools Business division, said the availability of several new releases, including the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8, the September release of Service Bus, and Windows Azure Storage, and said they were on pace for updates on a monthly basis.

The Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 contains code samples, documentation and components for building Metro style applications that use Windows Azure for connectivity and notifications.

At BUILD, Mark Russinovich, a Microsoft Azure technical fellow demonstrated the basics of Azure's Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) model and how it can best be leveraged to build applications in the cloud. Because Azure handles resource management, provisioning and monitoring, he said, developers and IT pros need only worry about what they produce.

Russinovich also noted the durable, scalable and high-availability nature of Azure storage. Data is replicated three times, and reflected to multiple data centers via "geo-replication" – so even if one goes down, the data is backed up elsewhere, he said.

Driving home the point about how far reaching cloud computing would influence its business, president and CEO Steve Ballmer said Microsoft’s major businesses -- Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, Office, Bing and Dynamics -- would all be redesigned to work better with the cloud.

“You [Windows developers] need to think about the business opportunities cloud can offer,” Ballmer said. “Windows Azure, Windows Live and cloud all working together is an area where developers can add a lot of value," Ballmer said.

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