Microsoft Tweaks Windows Azure With Autoscaling, More

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2013-06-27

Microsoft Tweaks Windows Azure With Autoscaling, More

SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft kicked off Day Two of its Build 2013 conference here with a series of developer-centric updates to its Windows Azure cloud computing platform.

Windows Azure spans infrastructure and platform capabilities to provide them with a comprehensive set of services to easily and quickly build modern applications, using the tools and languages familiar to them.

Delivering on its pledge to provide developers with a comprehensive cloud platform, Microsoft announced the general availability of Windows Azure Mobile Services. Speaking at the conference, Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the server and tools business at Microsoft, said Azure Mobile Services enables developers building Windows, Windows Phone, iOS and Android apps to store data in the cloud, authenticate users and send push notifications. Microsoft pointed out that TalkTalk Business, a business telecommunications provider in the United Kingdom, chose Windows Azure Mobile Services to create new ways to engage with its customers and serve demand for mobile access.

Microsoft also announced the general availability of Windows Azure Web Sites, which allows developers to create Websites on a secure and scalable platform to reach new customers. With the investments Microsoft has made in ASP.NET and Web tools, Web developers can now create scalable experiences easier than ever, the company said.

Dutch brewer Heineken is using Windows Azure to power a social pinball game for the UEFA Champions League Road to the Final campaign, with the expectations of millions of interactions scaled on Windows Azure. Heineken exceeded its usage metrics by a wide margin yet experienced no scalability issues with Windows Azure.

Keynotes delivered by Satya Nadella, president of the Server and Tools Business, and Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president and chief evangelist in Microsoft's Developer Platform Evangelism group, showcased how commonality across the Windows platform enables developers of all types to build compelling apps and experiences spanning devices and services.

"Developers are increasingly demanding a flexible, comprehensive platform that helps them build and manage apps in a cloud- and mobile-driven world," Nadella said, in a statement. "To meet these demands, Microsoft has been doubling down on Windows Azure. Nearly 1,000 new businesses are betting on Windows Azure daily, and as momentum for Azure grows, so too does the developer opportunity to build applications that power modern businesses."

Nadella also rattled off some impressive statistics about Windows Azure, including that more than 50 percent of the Fortune 500 organizations use Azure, and there are 3.2 million organizations using Windows Azure and 68 million individual users. There also are 8.5 trillion storage objects stored on Azure, and the platform manages 900,000 transactions per second. Microsoft has also seen three times the growth in its Hyper-V share, and the compute and storage capacity of Windows Azure doubles every six months, Nadella said.

Meanwhile, Nadella noted that after just announcing the general availability of its infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) capability in April, already 20 percent of Windows Azure capacity is IaaS capacity.

For his part, Guthrie also highlighted Microsoft's continued enterprise cloud momentum by demonstrating several platform advancements, including previews of improved auto-scaling, alerting and notifications, and tooling support for Windows Azure through Visual Studio. In addition, he previewed how Windows Azure Active Directory provides organizations and ISVs, such as Box, with a single-sign-on experience to access cloud-based applications.


Microsoft Tweaks Windows Azure With Autoscaling, More

Box CEO Aaron Levie joined Guthrie onstage at the show wearing an "I'm a PC" T-shirt exclaiming: "It's really exciting to see an all-new Microsoft—the amount of openness and heterogeneity is amazing."

Meanwhile, Guggenheimer announced the availability of the Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry Release Preview, which extends Windows 8.1 technologies and provides additional flexibility to meet the needs of industry devices. He demonstrated the Avis Select and Go app running on a Windows Embedded 8 Industry tablet and a Windows Embedded 8 Handheld device to illustrate the opportunity for developers to capitalize on the shared Windows code base and enable industry-specific branding, peripheral support (such as mag stripe readers and barcode scanners), and lockdown capabilities.

Also, through a series of partner demos, Guggenheimer demonstrated the common core of the Windows platform spanning PC, tablet, phone and embedded devices.

Guggenheimer also noted that Khan Academy has released a major update to its Windows 8 app, now live in the Windows Store. Using Khan Academy's Website code, Microsoft demonstrated how developers can easily take HTML5 and JavaScript code from the Web and easily port to a Windows 8 app.

Foursquare previewed an exclusive, uniquely designed Windows 8 tablet app that goes beyond check-ins to use location data in a way that helps users find interesting places and things to do around them.

In addition, Adobe is bringing its Digital Publishing Suite product to Windows 8.1 devices in late 2013. Publishers and brands will be able to design and publish content to multiple devices with interactive and inspiring reading experiences. Adobe also donated a full year of Adobe Creative Cloud subscription to all Build 2013 attendees.

Moreover, Guggenheimer announced the availability of OpenTable, Rockmelt and Rhapsody apps for Windows 8 in the Windows Store and previewed five Disney games. And he highlighted a few of the popular apps available in Windows Phone Store today, including ABC News, Xfinity by Comcast, TV Remote, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Walgreens, as well as the live push-to-talk and multimedia messaging app, Voxer.

"People want to experience and explore the world around them, and the Foursquare for Windows 8 app helps them do that. It makes it fun to search for a place for dinner or to go out, and it helps people discover new experiences. We've worked with Microsoft on a bunch of initiatives over the years, and this product is another example of the great things we can do together," Dennis Crowley, co-founder and CEO at Foursquare, said in a statement.

Other announcements include that PayPal's software development kit, now generally available, allows developers to integrate the payment experience for 128 million account holders into a Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 app. In addition, Unity Technologies, a popular game development platform with nearly 2 million community members, announced a strategic collaboration with Microsoft to make it easier for developers to bring popular games, entertainment and apps to Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox 360 and Xbox One for Microsoft Studios publishing partners.

And Microsoft also demonstrated the developer productivity enhancements of the .NET 4.5.1 runtime that enable developers to build the next wave of modern applications that run across devices and cloud, while also extending their existing line-of-business applications. The updates include improved coding, designing, testing and optimizing of XAML applications in Windows 8.1.

Onstage at Build, Guggenheimer, joined by Microsoft uber-programmer John Shewchuk, a Microsoft Technical Fellow heading up the technical evangelism and development team, demonstrated how broad Microsoft's platform is for both Web and app development support. Essentially, they showed how to build apps for the Web and move them to Windows 8 and other Microsoft platforms, said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst with Forrester.

Finally, Microsoft showcased how Bing as a platform can extend across a broad set of devices and client app experiences using Bing Developer Services. Guggenheimer demonstrated these platform capabilities by showing Microsoft translation technology in Twitter for Windows Phone, which now provides instant, single-click translation of tweets.

"Whether developing for existing, client/server, or emerging device and cloud application patterns, developers need a platform that offers consistency and flexibility. Only the Windows platform—spanning Windows, Windows Phone, Windows Azure and more—meets this need," Guggenheimer said.

Developers can go to the Windows Azure site today for a free trial.


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