Microsoft's president of Server and Tools Business, Bob Muglia, described in a keynote address at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference how the industry's thinking about the cloud has evolved over the past year. Muglia suggested that the infrastructure behind Microsoft's search engine, Bing, was an inspiration in the creation of the Azure platform. Azure will begin charging for its services in February 2010.
Even as it started planning Microsoft Azure, its cloud-based platform for
designing Web applications and services, Microsoft
evolved in its thinking on the nature of the cloud-and drew some inspiration
from the architecture behind Bing, its search engine.
So said Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business
division, during a Nov. 17 keynote address at the Microsoft
Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.
"Over the past year the industry understanding of the cloud has really
evolved. One thing that has become very clear is that the cloud is about more
than infrastructure: it's also an application model," Muglia told the
audience. "Microsoft has learned about how to build the next-generation
Specifically, Muglia continued, Bing is a prime example of Microsoft's
thinking in terms of cloud application models.
"Bing is a service that's always available; it's highly resilient; it
runs on multiple data centers. If we tried to manage this through standard
means, it'd be too expensive; what the Bing team did was build an
infrastructure on a platform called Autopilot, which can manage the service
with a very small amount of human intervention," said Muglia.
In many ways, Autopilot and its automatic data center management are
indicative of its thinking in developing the Azure cloud platform.
"Autopilot is a great prototype, but it wasn't built as a platform that
could be generalized," Muglia added. "That's where Azure has come in-to
take these ideas and generalize them in the form of an application platform
that can be broadly used."
announced during the conference that Windows Azure will be offered as a
Community Technology Preview until the end of 2009, with the full switch-on
of the cloud platform for enterprises on Jan. 1, 2010. By February of next year, Azure will begin
charging for its services.
"At its core, Azure is Windows-Windows Server," Microsoft Chief Software
Architect Ray Ozzie said during a keynote speech on Nov. 19. The Windows Azure
platform consists of three parts for creating Web applications and services:
Windows Azure, an operating system as a service; SQL Azure, a relational
database in the cloud; and .NET services,
which provide secure connectivity and federated access control for
Combined, Microsoft hopes that the platform will allow it to gain
substantial market share against Google, Amazon.com and others making forays
into the enterprise-cloud platform environment. Ozzie also introduced a
subsystem of Azure, code-named "Dallas,"
that will function as an open catalog for public and commercial data, as well
as a uniform discovery mechanism for that data.
In order to encourage the enterprise's adoption of Azure, Microsoft
announced several initiatives during Day One of the conference, including
Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V virtual machine support on Azure, enabling
virtualized infrastructure to be moved more rapidly between the cloud and
on-premises; Microsoft Pinpoint Marketplace, which will let partners market and
sell their applications; and RTM of Windows Identity Foundation, which lets
developers provide simplified user access to cloud and on-premises
Muglia announced Windows Server AppFabric, the beta of which will be
available for download "shortly."
AppFabric is a set of integrated technologies that make it easier for
developers to build out and manage middle-tier services built using Windows
Workflow Foundation and Windows Communication Foundation. In addition,
AppFabric will provide easy-to-use database caching.
A key part of integrating the cloud more fully into enterprise life, Muglia
also seemed to suggest, lies in developing models that allow existing
applications to be ported into the cloud. Virtualization and infrastructure
technology, he added, will come into play with regard to that transfer, and as
companies invest more fully in building their clouds.
"What's important is to begin to evolve these applications,"
Muglia said, "to take advantage of the attributes that the cloud delivers."
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.