Microsoft Exec Describes Azure Services Vision

Microsoft executive David Treadwell today provided a few more details about the company's Azure Services Platform in a Webinar aimed at the investment community.

The Azure Services Platform was announced late last month at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference. It represents Microsoft's latest push in its overall "software plus services" enterprise strategy.

Treadwell is Microsoft's corporate vice president for Live Platform Services, but he noted during the presentation that the Microsoft Live Meeting connection kept stalling. It was a minor annoyance. Still, it was reminder that some services still have a few issues to resolve.

Microsoft's Azure Services Platform is helping to provide connectivity to multiple "devices," consisting of PCs, mobile phones and the Web itself, Treadwell explained. Behind it all, Windows Azure provides the utility that enables cloud-based storage and management capabilities for such services.

Treadwell demonstrated how it's possible to sync data using Live Mesh. He created a text document, which, when saved in a folder on a desktop PC, subsequently became available in online storage for other users or devices to access. Live Mesh is part of Microsoft's Live Services offerings, which have been available for years. Live Services provide utilities for identity, directory, communication and presence, and search and geospatial applications.

Currently, there are more than 460 million active users of Live Services, Treadwell said. The services are being hosted on "hundreds of thousands of servers worldwide," he added.

For developers, Microsoft provides its Live Framework, an open, interoperable platform. Third-party software developers can utilize this framework to develop for the PC, mobile phone and Web. In addition, the APIs for the Azure Services Platform are based on standard protocols. ISVs are not locked into one software stack when developing for it.

The Azure Services Platform is designed to serve a broad customer base, from building social networking widgets to delivering high-power enterprise applications. Treadwell contrasted it to Google's hosted applications, suggesting that Azure Services offer a more comprehensive choice that combines the power of installed client apps with services in the cloud.

Treadwell said that Amazon "deserves a lot of credit" for leading the way with inexpensive, scalable services. However, he emphasized the flexibility of Microsoft's Azure ecosystem for developers as a key differentiating factor.

Treadwell addressed a question about possible hurdles for Azure. In response to security concerns, he noted that Live Mesh encrypts all of the data flows in the cloud. He also said that Azure gives users control over where their data resides.

Microsoft's Azure Services Platform
Microsoft's Azure Services Platform

He did acknowledge that some policy and legal challenges exist, especially with government sectors on sharing data over the cloud. The resolution of that problem will be an evolutionary process, he added.

Microsoft also is still trying to work out how to make money with its new cloud-computing venture. The company is considering subscription-based, ad-based and service-based business models, Treadwell said.

Currently, the Azure Services Platform is at the "Community Technology Preview" level.

"Next calendar year, we will take the core pieces [of Azure] to a shipping level," Treadwell said.

He concluded the presentation by noting that the next major release of Live Mesh will integrate FolderShare, a file synchronization service that is similar to Live Mesh. Microsoft acquired FolderShare in 2005. Currently, Microsoft's Live Mesh data sync service is publicly available at the beta release stage.

Treadwell's presentation is available at the Microsoft Investor Relations home page, which can be accessed here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.