It wasn’t the cloud operating system promised by Steve Ballmer, but Microsoft’s Azure Services Platform revealed yesterday by Ray Ozzie at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference will surely get Microsoft a place at the table with the other big cloud platform players like Amazon and Google.
So what’s in the Azure Services Platform? A bit of old and and a bit of new:
Unlike many of today’s service-based solutions, the Azure Services Platform provides developers with the flexibility and ability to create applications while taking advantage of their existing skills, tools and technologies such as the Microsoft .NET Framework and Visual Studio. Developers also can choose from a broad range of commercial or open source development tools and technologies, and access the Azure Services Platform using a variety of common Internet standards including HTTP, representational state transfer (REST), WS-* and Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub).
Key components of the Azure Services Platform include the following:
• Windows Azure for service hosting and management, low-level scalable storage, computation and networking
• Microsoft SQL Services for a wide range of database services and reporting
• Microsoft .NET Services which are service-based implementations of familiar .NET Framework concepts such as workflow and access control
• Live Services for a consistent way for users to store, share and synchronize documents, photos, files and information across their PCs, phones, PC applications and Web sites
• Microsoft SharePoint Services and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services for business content, collaboration and rapid solution development in the cloud
A limited community technology preview (CTP) of the Azure Services Platform was made available to PDC2008 attendees. There were no promises on commercial availability or pricing although according to Ray Ozzie (via Nicholas Carr):
During its preview stage, Windows Azure will be available for free to developers. Once the platform launches commercially – and, according to Ozzie, Microsoft will be "intentionally conservative" in rolling out the full platform – pricing will be based on a user’s actual consumption of CPU time (per hour), bandwidth (per gigabyte), storage (per gigabyte) and transactions. The actual fee structure has not been released, though Ozzie says it will be "competitive with the marketplace" and will vary based on different available service levels.
There are more technical details at http://www.azure.com.