Azure Makes Presence Known at Tech-Ed 2011

Microsoft is showing off what it has in store for customers using its cloud platform at this year's Tech-Ed conference with Azure and device-compatible announcements.

Robert Wahbe, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Server & Tools Business, pointed to high profile cloud customers such as HSBC, Travelocity and others using the company's Windows Azure platform during the keynote. Travelocity is taking advantage of Microsoft's cloud platform to extend the capacity of a Java-based system without burdening its own data centers. Developers used the Windows Azure compute and Blob storage (with help from Apache Tomcat solution accelerators) to offload analytics of customer interactions with travel Web sites. HSBC is implementing a 100,000 VDI deployment using Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center in a private cloud, according to Wahbe.

Jason Zander, corporate vice president of Visual Studio and his team members demonstrated the synergies between Windows Azure and Windows Phone 7 with a fictional Fabrikam Fiber call center application that provided service and scheduling updates to technicians in the field. Drew Robbins, director at Microsoft, demonstrated use of the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7, which is available on CodePlex, to implement user authentication, Microsoft Push Notification Services and location-awareness, among other features in a Windows Phone 7 cloud application. The Windows Azure Toolkit Version 1.2, released in time for Tech-Ed, adds support for Access Control Services 2.0, Windows Azure Queue Storage and a Web UI. Support for Microsoft Push Notifications arrived in v1.1.

During the keynote, Microsoft stressed its support of application management across multiple devices in previews of the System Center 2012 management console. Developer tooling is also reaching across device platforms. The Windows Azure Toolkit Version 1.2 adds support for Apple Push Notification Services. The Apple Push Notification Services can also be used in the Windows Phone Toolkit for iOS, released May 6 on Github. The iOS toolkit provides access to Windows Azure storage from native iOS apps (iPhone and iPad). Android Cloud to Device Messaging Service support is on the roadmap for this summer, according to Robbins.

Microsoft also released the May Community Technology Preview of its Windows Azure AppFabric Service Bus, which is an existing middleware cloud-based connectivity and messaging service. The May CTP enhances the Service Bus message queuing (100MB storage) and publish/subscribe messaging capabilities. These enhancements improve cross-platform connectivity using the REST/ HTTP API, which can connect to any operating system or platform, according to Microsoft, including Java and PHP. (The company announced plans to release Java and PHP samples next week.) The May CTP also supports Access Control Services 2.0. The load balancing and traffic optimization (Relay) that was available in the PDC10 preview has been dropped, at least temporarily. According to Microsoft, that technology is "postponed."

The May CTP functionality can be accessed in the Labs previews environment. The new features slated for commercialization later this year, according to Microsoft. The Windows Azure AppFabric SDK V2.0 May Update is available here. Read more about the new features in the blog introducing the May CTP posted by Clemens Vasters, Microsoft's principal technical lead for the Windows Azure AppFabric Service Bus.

During sessions this week, Microsoft is also expected to provide more details on its AppFabric Composite Application Service, which is now called the Windows Azure AppFabric Application Manager and AppFabric Developer Tools. The Windows Azure AppFabric June CTP will introduce the Visual Studio developer tooling and .NET extensions for integrating and managing multi-tier apps as a single logical entity using the AppFabric Composition Model. The CTP will also provide the first look at App Manager, which is the runtime for automated deployment and monitoring of multi-tier apps. Support for Windows Communication Foundation and Windows Workflow Foundation is also coming in the June CTP.

Microsoft also announced the SQL Azure May 2011 Service Update. Key improvements include a REST API for programmatically managing SQL Azure servers and adding firewall rules as needed; multi-server support per subscription; Java application support via an updated JDBC database driver; and DAC Framework 1.1, which adds support for in-place upgrades of SQL Azure databases.

Enhancements to Windows Azure, SQL Azure and related tooling will be highlighted throughout this week's Tech-Ed conference, May 16-19 in Atlanta. Many of these sessions will be streamed live and available online.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.