Posts tagged Azure

Azure Is Helping Microsoft Catch Up In The Cloud

Mobile and cloud go together like spring and rain, which is why Microsoft wants to keep them together for years to come—the latest updates to its Azure Web-based computing service will certainly help with that.

Microsoft Azure is the company’s bet against Google and Amazon Web Services, and at the recent Microsoft Build conference, we learned the platform has been updated with a slew of features like .NET backend support, single sign-on with the Active Directory authentication system and offline data syncing through the new Microsoft Azure Preview Portal, which the company called “an important step forward in delivering our promise of the cloud without complexity.

Developers, however, have several places to go when it comes to choosing these kinds of services. 

While Microsoft has been busy focusing on its core Windows business over the last few years, Amazon and Google have dominated the cloud by offering massive computing power at highly competitive prices

Now that Microsoft has found its new CEO—who happens to be the former head of its Cloud and Enterprise group—Satya Nadella seems to be orchestrating a turnaround to catch up to its rivals in the cloud.

Azure Portal Debuts 

With Microsoft moving more of its software building tools to the cloud, including its Visual Studio development framework, the company has also decided to update its Azure dashboard to look and feel more like its modern UI apps.

With Mobile Services and now Visual Studio already included inside Azure, end-to-end development using Microsoft’s cloud is looking like a more feasible reality. 

Microsoft Azure Preview Portal is the home of a redesigned and updated Web-hosting service dashboard for application development and deployment.

Microsoft Azure Preview Portal is the home of a redesigned and updated Web-hosting service dashboard for application development and deployment.

If you look at the above image, you’ll see the updated Azure dashboard looks and feels more like Microsoft’s “Metro UI,” and each menu includes drill down sections for things like server usage and monitoring, Web site analytics, billing and more. The billing section features a line item listing of all charges that will show up on a monthly bill, which was one of the most requested Azure features, according to Adam Abdelhamed, a Microsoft Azure senior program manager.

Microsoft hopes to separate itself from its more mature cloud hosting competition by offering a more complete set of tools from app operations to development. That means providing more traditional cloud computing tools for things like adding and subtracting servers as traffic ramps up and down. Microsoft hopes developers prefer this kind of “infrastructure on demand” as opposed to hiring up their own operational teams.

Automating the infrastructure can allow developers to focus more on the front ends of their apps, if they so choose. In this regard, Microsoft announced integrations with network management firms Puppet Labs and Chef to help businesses get more comfortable with that side of things; however, Amazon has a beta program called AWS OpsWorks that seems to be the same kind of setup, and Google similarly grouped all of its cloud tools into the Google Cloud Platform recently.

The real question for Microsoft is if developers are more enticed by their new offerings than similar cloud ecosystems from Amazon and Google; from the looks of it, Microsoft still has a lot of catching up to do. We’ve already seen another round of back and forth price cuts between these three companies in 2014, and now Microsoft has updated its cloud hosting features— if cloud competitors weren’t paying attention to Microsoft before, they certainly are now. 

Microsoft may have joined the cloud game a bit late, but the company has the tools, the leadership and the cash to be competitive for years to come.

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With Azure And Visual Studio, Microsoft Hugs Cloud And Mobile Developers A Little More Tightly

If you don’t do Windows, Microsoft still wants to talk to you.

One proof point there: Windows Azure, its answer to Amazon Web Services, is now called Microsoft Azure. The name change may be superficial, but there are deeper changes afoot, including a host of announcements the company made at its Build conference for developers in San Francisco on Thursday.

Visual Studio Goes Online

The core of how Microsoft has catered to software creators over the year is Visual Studio, a desktop program that offers an integrated development environment, or IDE—in other words, all the tools you need to write, test, and fix software. It was, naturally, only available on Windows.

At Build, Microsoft executive Scott Guthrie announced that Visual Studio Online, a Web-based version of Visual Studio, had exited a period of testing and was now available to all comers. For groups of more than 5 users, it requires a paid subscription, and it still lacks some of the features of the desktop version, but it is a way developers who prefer Mac or Linux machines can get a taste of Microsoft’s code-building tools. 

Another way Microsoft is courting those developers is through the partnership it unveiled last November with Xamarin, a San Francisco-based software company which offers code-building software compatible with Microsoft’s tools and frameworks, including the C# programming language and the .Net framework. Xamarin Studio is available for both Mac and Windows, making it another way Microsoft can broaden its reach among developers it has not traditionally courted. Xamarin cofounder Miguel de Icaza demonstrated Xamarin on stage at Build on Thursday.

Azure Skies

At the same time, it is also clear that Visual Studio will also be more and more tightly integrated with Azure. For example, Microsoft  now lets Visual Studio users increase or decrease the amount of computing power they wish to rent on Azure right within the program. This integration is meant to let developers move more quickly by adding extra servers or instances without having to leave their coding environment.

Ironically, Microsoft is catching up on its own turf. Amazon, Microsoft’s archrival in Web-based computing services, recognized the opportunity to court Microsoft developers and already offers a Visual Studio extension for managing the full range of Amazon Web Services offerings within the program.

Microsoft is now talking to developers beyond the Windows world.

Microsoft is now talking to developers beyond the Windows world.

MIcrosoft also added to its mobile back-end offerings, which allow app developers to focus more on designing an app’s user interface and worry less about how it will store data and run code.

A key back-end service is Azure Active Directory, a Web-based version of Microsoft’s authentication system for corporate networks. An executive from DocuSign, a document-management service, showed how its mobile app used Azure Active Directory to let users log in with the same credentials they might use for their company email—on an iPhone, no less.

Microsoft Azure Active Directory works on iOS devices, too.

Microsoft Azure Active Directory works on iOS devices, too.

At the same time it’s making Visual Studio more attractive—or at least a plausible option—for non-Windows developers, its also letting developers use a wide variety of programming languages to access Azures computing services. And it’s letting them use Visual Studio and Azure to create apps that run on Apple’s iOS, Googles Android, and the Web, not just Windows.

This doesn’t represent a whole new strategy for Microsoft, which has been building towards this for years. But the collection of products and features Microsoft highlighted at Build shows that it now has a serious portfolio for developers of all stripes.

Photo of Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s executive vice president, cloud and enterprise group, by Owen Thomas for ReadWrite

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Microsoft Hears Amazon Price Drop, Raises It An Azure Cut

A week after cloud-computing price cuts from Google and Amazon, Microsoft lowered the price of its own storage and compute offerings by up to 65%, Steven Martin, Microsoft Azure’s general manager, announced in a company blog post. The news comes in advance of Microsoft’s annual Build conference later this week.

That’s likely not the end of the price cutting. All three companies have a big incentive to gain as much traction as they can with big business customers, as it’s still early days in the cloud era.

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Microsoft’s Azure Renaming Suggests It Doesn’t (Always) Do Windows

Microsoft looks likely to step away from its all-Windows-all-the-time branding strategy by renaming its Windows Azure cloud service to “Microsoft Azure,” ZDnet’s Mary Jo Foley reports. The move, which Microsoft is likely to announce at its Build developers conference next week, is part of a broader shift under new CEO Satya Nadella away from tying major Microsoft products to Windows.

Image by Flickr user D.Begley

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