Microsoft Answers Amazon with Windows Azure

At the Professional Developer Conference being held today in Los Angeles, Microsoft Chief Architect Ray Ozzie announced the company’s cloud computing platform, Windows Azure, which is a response to Amazon’s Web Services stack and Google’s App Engine. Azure is a cloud computing platform that allows developers to create web applications using existing Microsoft development tools and deploy them across Microsoft’s data centers via a pay-as-you-go service (pricing has not been announced).

The following is Microsoft’s bullet point pitch for Azure:

  • Add Web service capabilities to existing packaged applications.
  • Build, modify, and distribute applications to the Web with minimal on-premises resources.
  • Perform services (large-volume storage, batch processing, intense or large-volume computations, etc.) off premises.
  • Create, test, debug, and distribute Web services quickly and inexpensively.
  • Reduce costs of building and extending on-premises resources.
  • Reduce the effort and costs of IT management

During the technology preview, in which Azure will be free for developers, Azure will start by supporting only the .NET Framework and Microsoft Visual Studio. Microsoft calls Azure an open platform, though, and plans to support other developers languages, such as Python, PHP, and Ruby in the future.

The so-called Azure Services Platform is divided into four key components that leverage existing Microsoft technologies.

  1. .NET Services – Web based implementation of .NET framework ideas.
  2. SQL Services – The database layer.
  3. Live Services – Access to other Live APIs (such as Live ID, Virtual Earth, Messenger, etc.).
  4. CRM & SharePoint Services – Service to build apps that access SharePoint and CRM functionality.

The graphic below (via Microsoft) illustrates how the Azure Services Platform comes together for web developers.