Microsoft stresses Azure cloud apps at TechEd

.Net Framework 4 support added to the software giant's cloud computing platform

Microsoft has added .NET Framework 4 support to the Windows Azure software development kit, making it easier for developers to build web applications in the cloud.

Announced Monday at, the updated Azure SDK also supports Visual Studio 2010, and IntelliTrace, a debugging tool. Microsoft also moved the Windows Azure Content Delivery Network from beta to production, and increased SQL database capacity in the Azure cloud from 10GB to 50GB.

While it was already possible to build .NET applications on Azure, support for .NET Framework 4 gives developers the same capabilities in the cloud as they have within their own networks, says Jamin Spitzer, director of Microsoft’s Platform Strategy Group.

For example, this would make it easier to build applications with identity and access control, and perform Active Directory .

Microsoft’s Azure plans also include packaging on-premise applications in virtual machines and allowing them to move from a customer’s data center to the cloud. But that technology won’t be available until later this year, Spitzer said.

Overall, TechEd’s cloud announcements are about taking capabilities that exist within customers’ data centers “and making that possible in the cloud as well,” Spitzer said.

“Our job, simply put, is to deliver what customers need to take advantage of cloud computing on their own terms,” Microsoft server and tools president Bob Muglia said in a keynote address. “Microsoft’s strategy is to deliver software, services and tools that enable customers to realize the benefits of a cloud-based model with the reliability and security of on-premises software.”

Analysts had predicted Microsoft would reveal more details about Azure, the company’s competitor to Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud.

While Amazon focuses primarily on infrastructure-as-a-service offerings, with on-demand access to virtual machines and storage capacity, Spitzer said Microsoft’s goal with Azure is to deliver platform-as-a-service technologies, which let developers build and deploy web applications without any internal hardware and software.

In addition to Azure updates, Microsoft announced that it will ship a public beta of Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows Server 2008 Release 2 and Windows 7 during July, that Windows Server.  AppFabric has been released to manufacturing, that Exchange Server 2010 SP1 is now available as a beta download, and that Bing Maps has a new software development kit allowing creation of apps built on top of Bing Maps and hosted on Bing.com.Microsoft also unveiled the full set of features for Office Communications Server 14, likely to become available in Q4 this year.

“Key new features in [OCS 14] include expert search, Office document and application sharing, and one-click meeting access from Outlook, SharePoint and mobile phones, which contribute to the complete unified communications experience that connects people anytime from virtually anywhere,” Microsoft said.

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