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Microsoft launches Windows Azure, its "cloud OS"

October 27, 2008

Having spent billions constructing a data center network over the last couple of years, Microsoft this morning launched, in limited "preview" form, Windows Azure, its platform for cloud computing. The announcement was made by Microsoft's top software executive, Ray Ozzie, in a speech at the company's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.

Microsoft will use the Azure platform to run its own web applications and will also open the platform to outside developers for building and running their own apps. Azure will compete with other cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services, Google App Engine, and Salesforce.com's force.com, and, given Microsoft's enormous scale and influence in the software industry, its launch marks a milestone in the history of utility computing. The cloud is now firmly in the mainstream. Or, as Microsoft puts it: "The truth is evident: Cloud computing is here."

The company describes Azure in this way:

Windows Azure is a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting and service management environment for the Azure Services Platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage Web applications on the Internet through Microsoft data centers.

To build these applications and services, developers can use their existing Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 expertise. In addition, Windows Azure supports popular standards and protocols including SOAP, REST, and XML. Windows Azure is an open platform that will support both Microsoft and non-Microsoft languages and environments ... Windows Azure welcomes third party tools and languages such as Eclipse, Ruby, PHP, and Python.

During its preview stage, Windows Azure will be available for free to developers. Once the platform launches commercially - and, according to Ozzie, Microsoft will be "intentionally conservative" in rolling out the full platform - pricing will be based on a user's actual consumption of CPU time (per hour), bandwidth (per gigabyte), storage (per gigabyte) and transactions. The actual fee structure has not been released, though Ozzie says it will be "competitive with the marketplace" and will vary based on different available service levels.

More information can be found at Microsoft's Azure site and in this technical white paper. Azure's terms of service can be found here.

One question: Isn't "azure" typically used to describe a cloudless sky?


I think Azure is a cool name. "Cloud" is at the peak of its hype as a word (not the concept). Had they named this "Windows Cloud" or some dumb thing they'd be dated two weeks after they announce this. If the intent was to focus on the clear blue sky vs. clouds then that was smart. Clear blue skies are open/transparent, not murky and damp like clouds.

Posted by: markashton [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 27, 2008 02:26 PM

Seem like there's an obvious question: how does this differ from Windows Server? Why was a new OS needed? I'm sure there are good answers, but I'm still fuzzy.

Posted by: Kendall Brookfeld [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 27, 2008 04:31 PM

Azure reminds me too much of Azureus, the Bittorrent client.

Posted by: Justin Yost [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 27, 2008 08:50 PM

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