Yesterday at PDC, Ray Ozzie and Bob Muglia announced the global availability of Microsoft’s new cloud computing service – Windows Azure Platform. In addition, Ray and Bob announced a number of additional announcements related to Windows Server.  I wanted to take a moment and provide some context for all our existing Windows Server customers and partners.

For our existing Windows Server customers, the most important announcement at PDC was that in the future Windows Azure will support Windows Server virtual machines.  This Windows Server VM support will make it easier for customers to move their existing Windows Server applications onto Windows Azure. Microsoft is still evaluating the best approach and the timeline for VM support on Azure but we do know that virtual machines on Windows Azure will allow customers to take advantage of Windows Azure’s automated management capabilities. We also strongly encourage our customers to work with our thousands of hosting partners such as GoGrid, RackSpace, MaximumASP that provide hosting of Windows Server and SQL Server. If customers have increased compute capacity demands or need to deliver new applications to their customers as soon as possible, our Windows Server and SQL Server hosting partners are another great option. Here is a site to find out more about our Windows Server hosting partners.

Bob Muglia also announced today the beta release of Windows Server AppFabric. This new Windows Server technology allows developers and IT Pros to more easily build and manage composite web-applications and to more easily create scale-out application on Windows Server and IIS. Windows Server AppFabric Beta 1 is available now and will be available and will be supported on Windows Azure in the future.  This will allow customers to write an application once and then run it either on Windows Server or Windows Azure with minimal or no re-factoring.

So what is Windows Azure? Windows Azure is both a new cloud platform and a management service hosted in Microsoft datacenters. It is optimized for independent software vendors and enterprises to build new applications that span from consumer Web applications (such as the Dominos Pizza web site) to enterprise applications.  Windows Azure is not simply hosted Windows Server. It is a new cloud computing platform that makes it easy to build new scale-out applications and provides an integrated development platform via Visual Studio.

Importantly, Windows Azure was designed to interoperate with Microsoft’s existing products. This integration allows our customers to leverage existing skills sets and investments in Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio and System Center. For instance, an enterprise can use their existing Active Directory infrastructure to provide user access to a Windows Azure application in order to maintain a single authentication approach for all applications. As another example of leveraging existing investments, developers build Windows Azure applications in the same tool that they develop applications for Windows Server. Over time, customers will be able to manage Windows Azure applications in System Center in the same way they manage their on-premises applications.  These examples highlight a key strategy of Microsoft – we will provide customers platform flexibility while delivering common application technologies, developer tools and system management tools for datacenters behind the firewall or in the cloud.

Some great news from PDC.  To start evaluating both Windows Azure and Windows Server AppFabric.

Mike Neil

General Manager

Windows Server