Microsoft Simplifies Development on Windows Azure Cloud

With a new promotional offer, Microsoft is enabling developers to more easily access and build applications for the Windows Azure cloud-computing platform.

Microsoft is making it easier for developers to start building applications for the cloud by providing a new offer that enables developers to tap into the power of Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud platform.

As part of its strategy, Microsoft is offering developers a free trial of the Windows Azure platform, which is valid till June 30, 2011. This promotion, available as of Feb. 22, includes 750 hours of Windows Azure Extra Small Compute instance use, 25 hours of Small Compute instance, 500MB of storage, 10,000 storage transactions per month, 100,000 access control transactions and two service bus connections. Microsoft also is providing users with a 1GB Web Edition of the SQL Azure Database (free for the first 90-days), as well as free data transfers-500MB in and 500MB out per month, said Prashant Ketkar, director of product marketing for Windows Azure.

Windows Azure compute instances come in five sizes to enable complex applications and workloads: extra small, small, medium, large and extra large, and they range in size from 20GB of storage for the extra small instance to 2,040GB for the extra large instance. Microsoft introduced the extra small Windows Azure instance to make the process of development, testing and trial easier for enterprise developers. The extra small instance will also make Windows Azure more affordable for developers interested in running smaller applications on the platform, the company said.

Ketkar told eWEEK the new offer would be available in all 41 countries that Windows Azure is supported. Although the offer is free, a valid credit card is required to verify the customer's location to ensure it is in one of the supported areas.

Feb. 1 marked the first anniversary of Windows Azure's commercial release. "We're at an interesting point in our journey with Windows Azure," Ketkar said. "It's a little over a year since we went commercial, and we're seeing customers starting to use more and more components of the platform. People are starting to adopt the true platform as a service paradigm."

Developers represent a key audience for Windows Azure, Ketkar said. From the beginning, Microsoft designed Windows Azure with developers in mind, he added.

"We were conscious and deliberate about making sure the platform was open," Ketkar said. "We wanted to create a smooth on-ramp and bridge for developers who had a background in tools and environments outside the Microsoft world. It was a fundamental design choice to keep the platform open so that Java, PHP and other developers could take advantage of the platform."

Ketkar also noted that Microsoft offers free Windows Azure services for MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) and BizSpark members. Microsoft BizSpark is a global program that helps software startups succeed by giving them access to Microsoft software development tools; connecting them with key industry players, including investors; and providing marketing visibility to help entrepreneurs starting a business.

Additionally, Ketkar said Microsoft's Windows Azure Marketplace represents a big opportunity for developers. The Windows Azure Marketplace is an online marketplace for developers to share, find, buy and sell building-block components, training, service templates, premium data sets plus finished services and applications needed to build Windows Azure platform applications.