While a lot of BUILD was focused around Windows 8 and Windows Server 8, cloud was not ignored. Windows Azure figures into the revised Microsoft platform strategy and there are also some updates and announcements around Windows Azure that came out this week. There were also some good sessions on Windows Azure given at the conference which will be available for online viewing shortly.
First off, strategy. The common vision that interconnects everything shown at build is "connected devices, continuous services" -- and cloud services figure prominently in that equation. And while there is some direct integration to Windows Live Services in Windows 8, Windows Azure plays an equally important role. It's the place to host your own application services and data with worldwide scale. In addition to Compute, it's valuable services for Storage, Relational Data, Community, Networking, and Security are essential infrastructure.
Here are significant Windows Azure announcements made this week:
• Windows Azure SDK / Tools for Visual Studio 1.5. The updated Windows Azure SDK 1.5 includes an overhauled emulator for local development, performance improvements, validation of packages before deployment, bug fixes, and expanded command line tools. Enhancements for Visual Studio allow you to profile your Windows Azure applications, create ASP.NET MVC3 web roles, and manage multiple service configurations in a cloud project.
• Service Bus Released / AppFabric SDK 1.5. Some exciting updates to AppFabric Service Bus have been in preview for most of this year which include brokered message features such as queues, topics, and subscriptions. The updated Service Bus is now released, and to go with it there is a new AppFabric SDK 1.5.
• Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8. For those getting an early start on Windows 8 development, the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 provides the same kind of cloud service support Microsoft released earlier this year for various phone platforms.
• Windows Azure Autoscaling Application Block. This is a code block that helps you auto-scale your cloud applications. It is currently in preview and the code is available in binary or source code form using nuget.
• Updated Management Portal. The Windows Azure management portal has been improved. In particular, the SQL Azure data management area of the portal has been overhauled and enhanced.
• Geo-replication of Windows Azure Storage. As you may know the 6 Windows Azure data centers can be considered pairs (2 in North America, 2 in Europe and 2 in Asia). Your Windows Azure storage is now replicated to the "other pair". This is automatic and isn't something you can visibly see or manage, it's there for failover in the event of a catastrophic data loss in a data center. There's no extra cost associated with this, it's simply another level of protection Microsoft has added to the platform in addition to the triple-redundancy we already enjoy within each data center.
My colleague Michael Collier covers some of these features in a lot more detail on his blog. The Windows Azure platform keeps getting better and better, and it's nice to see the pace of work on improving it hasn't slowed any.