Microsoft Joins the Cloud

At its annual developers conference, the company unveiled its Windows Azure product intended to facilitate “cloud computing,” while also providing a look at its next-generation Windows 7 platform.

At the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2008 (PDC2008) on Oct. 27, Ray Ozzie, Microsoft Corp.’s chief software architect, announced Windows Azure, the cloud-based service foundation underlying its Azure Services Platform, and highlighted this platform’s role in delivering a software plus services approach to computing.

The Azure Services Platform is a move by Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., to help developers build the next generation of applications that will span from the “cloud”—a metaphor for the Internet and its underlying infrastructure—to the enterprise data center, and deliver new experiences across the personal computer (PC), Web and phone. Given the wide use of Microsoft products and platforms within modern manufacturing, these developments could well have long-term implications for automation professionals, and as such, bear watching.

“Today marks a turning point for Microsoft and the development community,” Ozzie said. “We have introduced a game-changing set of technologies that will bring new opportunities to Web developers and business developers alike. The Azure Services Platform, built from the ground up to be consistent with Microsoft’s commitment to openness and interoperability, promises to transform the way businesses operate and how consumers access their information and experience the Web. Most important, it gives our customers the power of choice to deploy applications in cloud-based Internet services or through on-premises servers, or to combine them in any way that makes the most sense for the needs of their business.”

You pick ‘em

The Azure Services Platform provides developers with the flexibility and ability to create applications while taking advantage of their existing skills, tools and technologies such as the Microsoft .Net Framework and Visual Studio. Developers also can choose from a broad range of commercial or open source development tools and technologies, and access the Azure Services Platform using a variety of common Internet standards, including hypertext transport protocol (HTTP), representational state transfer (REST), Web Services Interoperability standards (WS-*) and Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub).

Key components of the Azure Services Platform include the following:
• Windows Azure for service hosting and management, low-level scalable storage, computation and networking
• Microsoft SQL Services for a wide range of database services and reporting
• Microsoft .Net Services, which are service-based implementations of familiar .Net Framework concepts such as workflow and access control
• Live Services for a consistent way for users to store, share and synchronize documents, photos, files and information across their PCs, phones, PC applications and Web sites
• Microsoft SharePoint Services and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services for business content, collaboration and rapid solution development in the cloud.

Next Windows unveiled

On Oct. 28, Microsoft Corp. shared the first full public demonstration of Windows 7. Windows 7 extends developers’ investments in Windows Vista and encourages the creation of new applications and services for the Windows platform. The company also delivered a pre-beta build of Windows 7 to PDC attendees and announced plans to release a full Windows 7 beta early next year.

Microsoft also demonstrated, for the first time, its new Web applications for Office, which are lightweight versions of Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that are used from within standard Web browsers. The company showed how anyone can use all of the Web, phone, and PC versions of Office to edit the same rich document, switching among them seamlessly with lossless file compatibility.

“We are bringing the best of the Web to Windows, and the best of Windows to the Web,” said Ozzie. “From PC to the Web to the phone, and from the server to cloud, we are focused on enabling the creation of the next generation of user experiences that change the way we live, work and play.”

Office Web applications

Separately, Microsoft announced that the next version of Microsoft Office will include Office Web applications that will help improve productivity and enhance the desktop experience by enabling people to access, create, edit, share and collaborate on Office documents across multiple devices.

Office Web applications for Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote will be available to individuals through Office Live, and to businesses though a hosted subscription and existing volume licensing programs. This new offering will be compatible with familiar Web browsers from Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. Microsoft will release a private Technical Preview of Office Web applications later this year. In the meantime, customers interested in learning more about the upcoming beta availability are encouraged to sign up for Microsoft Office Live Workspace at

Microsoft Corp.

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