Microsoft unveils ‘Azure’ cloud platform

Microsoft will allow businesses to run their applications in its data centres, the company revealed at a developer conference yesterday. This could drastically reduce the cost and complexity of managing and updating applications.

Developers familiar with the .NET programming language will be able to build applications for Microsoft’s Azure Services Platform (ASP), a utility computing resource based on the company’s own data centres.

One component of the platform, the Fabric Controller, dynamically sources computing resources from within Microsoft’s data centre estate depending on availability and demand, without any involvement from the user organisation. The platform also uses Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualisation technology to glean greater efficiency and manageability.

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, paid tribute to online book retailer turned cloud computing pioneer in his keynote address at Microsoft’s Professional Developer Conference in Los Angeles yesterday. "All of us are going to be standing on their shoulders” as the industry moves to cloud computing, he said.

However, he added that there were substantive differences between ASP and Amazon’s Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2), which earlier this month added support for Microsoft applications.

The company did not reveal a release date or pricing plan for ASP.

With a cloud computing platform soon to be available from such a mainstream provider, there will soon be only one barrier to the adoption of the computing model: customer appetite.

While it should reduce the cost of running software by shifting the burden of hardware maintenance onto a provider that should be able to exploit economies of scale, critics argue that cloud computing represents a new way for software providers to lock customers into their proprietary platforms.

Further reading

The dangers of cloud computing
Report calls for businesses to wake up to the security challenges of using Internet-based computing services

Cloud computing to cut IT jobs, warns HP
The trend towards hosting services online and outsourcing storage and processing power will shake down IT departments as we know them, predicts hardware giant

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Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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