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TechEd 2013: Microsoft Backs Development Strategy Built Around Azure

At TechEd in New Orleans, Microsoft showed it is aligning the company's previously on-premise development tools and systems to the Azure model.

NEW ORLEANS—"Do the work in the tools you know." That phrase from Eron Kelly, SQL general manager at Microsoft, summarized the company's TechEd conference and many, many announcements here in New Orleans.

The idea is that technology execs and administrators will be able to take the tools and systems they are using on premise and create an interchangeable system with the company's Azure cloud.

This is a different and compelling strategy compared with having to buy new boxes (as is the case with SAP and Oracle) or use new tools that are different from what you already use in your company, as with Amazon Web Services.

In an interview, Brad Anderson, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the $19 billion Windows server and system center division, emphasized the seamlessness of the Windows on-premise to Microsoft Azure environment as the kingpin of Redmond's strategy. "Cloud consistency," Anderson answered when asked how Microsoft will differentiate itself from the rest of the cloud pack.

He explained that the consistency revolved around five areas: consistent virtualization, consistent management, consistent developer experience, consistent security and identity and consistent data.

Here are the product highlights:

Windows 8.1 client: This has been much discussed but in addition to an improved (retro?) look and feel there are some significant enterprise advances in security and biometric user authentication.

Visual Studio 2013: Aimed at workgroups and the easy development of apps for a cloud environment.

Windows Server 2012 R2: advances to its Hyper-V virtualization stack, faster Live Migration capabilities, online resizing and exports of virtual machine snapshots.

Microsoft is also touting SQL Server 2014 add in-memory online transaction processing (OLTP) capabilities, better performance and scale, improved security, support for hybrid cloud platforms and Hadoop connectivity. SQL 2014 is in my opinion the big product announcement as it provides a path to meld traditional OLTP-type capabilities with unstructured data but without having to invest in Oracle or SAP style boxes and new data models. It also gives traditional IT professionals a way to get into the cloud computing model without having to abandon past practices.

System Center 2012 R2 integrates more deeply with a new version of Intune for device management, including non-Windows devices based on iOS or Android.

I'll be blogging about these products, but the most important news item is that Microsoft is fully embracing the cloud model based around Azure and is aligning its previously on-premise systems to the Azure model.

The big advantage for traditional IT is the ability to use the same tools and systems they have used for many years to create the next-generation cloud platform now so much in demand. Consistency counts in the technology business.

Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor-in-chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008 authors this blog for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this blog. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made