Microsoft cites cloud as transformational

Generates hype around Windows Azure.

Promoting its Windows Azure cloud OS, Microsoft described on Monday the cloud as a transformational shift for the industry.

The move to the cloud follows transformations from the mainframe to the PC, from the PC to client-server, and from client-server to the Internet, according to Microsoft.

"So what is all this fuss about SaaS (software as a service)? Well, really, it is the transformation that cloud computing will bring to our industry," said Mark Hindsbo, Microsoft general manager for developer and platform evangelism, during the MSDN Developer Conference in San Francisco.

Microsoft is touting Windows Azure and the Azure Services Platform. With Azure, developers can use the Visual Studio software development environment to build applications for the cloud.

"The easiest way to think about [Windows Azure] is it is Windows Server in the cloud," said Hindsbo. It supports development using REST and XML services and native or managed code.

Cloud computing and SaaS can provide benefits in today's tough economy, offering quick application deployment, Hindsbo said.

"I think one of the things that we're all facing right now is the big software projects that require massive up-front investments before our business customers see any return are probably very dubious," he said.

Microsoft's emphasis on cloud computing drew an endorsement from conference attendee Curtis Pope II, CEO of MetroDataOne, a software development and consulting firm.

"Just the fact that people are able to store not only their personal information but also their work information or work from anywhere, even, that's a beautiful thing," Pope said. Cloud computing harks back to the days of terminal-based computing but is flexible, he said.

Azure currently is offered in a pre-released, community preview format. General availability of Azure technology is anticipated for some time in 2010.

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