Microsoft puts its focus on the cloud

Company aims to move Server and SQL Server features to Azure platform

Microsoft's annual TechEd North America conference for developers and IT kicked off June 7 in New Orleans with an emphasis on cloud computing. During the opening keynote, Microsoft's Bob Muglia, president of the Server and Tools Business, discussed product enhancements to the Azure platform, Bing Maps, Windows 7, Windows Server and Communications Server, among other technologies.

 "What we are focusing on is taking all of the features and capabilities that exist today in Windows Server and SQL Server and bringing that into the Windows Azure and the SQL Azure environment," Muglia said. "And we are taking the service learning that we have from Windows Azure and other properties like Bing and bringing it back into Windows Server, SQL Server, and System Center."

Microsoft is helping its customers move their investments in applications forward, according to Muglia, with a common identity, application and management model based on Active Directory, the .NET Framework and System Center. "[W]e think that there should be only one model, one platform across all of things so that all of the learning, the skills, the tools, the management environment that you have today is leveraged regardless of whether you are building clouds in your own data center, whether you are working with partners that are providing clouds or you are running apps in that environment, or whether you are building and deploying apps on the Windows Azure environment," he said.

For developers, the biggest news is .NET Framework 4 support in Windows Azure. Microsoft Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio 1.2 (June 2010), which includes the Windows Azure Software Developer Kit (June 2010), fully supports the Visual Studio 2010 RTM. That means the new historical debugging (IntelliTrace) in Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate has been extended to Windows Azure and SQL Azure services.

With the updated Visual Studio tooling, developers can "publish" services from within the IDE's Solution Explorer. Server Explorer now offers a read-only view of Windows Azure Tables and Blob storage and adds a Windows Azure Compute feature for service monitoring.

The Windows Azure Content Delivery Network, designed for edge caching of public Windows Azure Blobs that are less than 10G, is generally available. The service, which was previewed in November, is designed to provide higher bandwidth by copying content and moving it closer to end users. Microsoft is expected to start billing for the CDN service July 1.

SQL Azure was enhanced to support spatial data types and up to 50G of storage. Microsoft is also previewing the SQL Azure Data Sync Service, which uses the Microsoft Sync Framework to enable synchronization of SQL Azure databases in Windows Azure data centers. This is an extension of the Data Sync for SQL Azure tooling, found in the Microsoft Sync Framework PowerPack for SQL Azure November CTP, which utilized the Microsoft Sync Framework to sync SQL Server on-premise data with SQL Azure services.

Microsoft SQL Server Web Manager, described as a management tool for developing and deploying Web applications was also announced.

In addition, the Bing Map App SDK is available for download. It enables developers to use their own data with Bing Maps to create applications and services. Qualified apps may be featured in the Bing Maps Gallery. According to Chris Pendleton, the Microsoft Bing Maps Tech Evangelist, the developer sandbox is the actual Bing Maps site, which has been upgraded to Silverlight 4. The Silverlight Pivot Viewer for data visualizations is expected this month, according to today's announcements.

The Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 betas are expected in July. Windows 7 SP1 will include all patches and security fixes, rather than new features, according to Muglia. The Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 will add enhanced graphics support for desktop virtualization with Remote FX, technology that stems from the Calista Technologies acquisition. An extension to Hyper-V for allocating resources called Dynamic Memory will be available in Standard, Web, Enterprise and Data Center editions. Microsoft announced the Service Packs in March.

The Windows Server AppFabric was also released to manufacturing today. The AppFabric extensions help manage composite apps, through an app server (Dublin) and distributed caching (Velocity), to enable highly scalable Web applications, according to Microsoft. The technology is available at no additional cost to people with licenses for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

The obligatory glitch during the keynote came during the demo of the social networking features of Office Communications Server "14," expected later this year. Microsoft Communicator 2010 Attendee, a meeting app with support for a soft phone and high definition video (720p HD) enabled by third-party Web cams was highlighted. While the virtual meeting seemed to work, the real time Office document sharing fizzled when PowerPoint wouldn't load. Communication Server integrates with Exchange Server 2010 and SharePoint 2010.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.


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