Cloud Computing Drives Microsoft Announcements at TechEd North America

Microsoft's annual TechEd North America conference for developers and IT kicked off today in New Orleans. During the opening keynote, Microsoft's Bob Muglia, president of the Server and Tools Business, set forth the company's visions for dynamic IT and the cloud. The keynote centered on product enhancements to the Azure platform, Bing Maps, Windows 7, Windows Server and Communications Server, among other technologies.

The company is continuing to work on furthering the symmetry between its on-premise and cloud applications. "What we are focusing on is taking all of the features and capabilities that exist today in Windows Server and SQL Server and bringing that into the Windows Azure and the SQL Azure environment," said Muglia. "And we are taking the service learning that we have from Windows Azure and other properties like Bing and bringing it back into Windows Server, SQL Server, and System Center."

Microsoft is helping its customers move their investments in applications forward, according to Muglia, with a common identity, application and management model based on Active Directory, the .NET Framework and System Center. "[W]e think that there should be only one model, one platform across all of things so that all of the learning, the skills, the tools, the management environment that you have today is leveraged regardless of whether you are building clouds in your own data center, whether you are working with partners that are providing clouds or you are running apps in that environment, or whether you are building and deploying apps on the Windows Azure environment," he said.

Updated Tooling for Windows Azure

For developers, the biggest news is .NET Framework 4 support in Windows Azure. Microsoft Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio 1.2 (June 2010), which includes the Windows Azure Software Developer Kit (June 2010), fully supports the Visual Studio 2010 RTM. That means the new historical debugging (IntelliTrace) in Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate has been extended to Windows Azure and SQL Azure services. Jim Nakashima, Microsoft program manager on the Windows Azure Tools team, details how IntelliTrace works in Azure in his Cloudy in Seattle blog.

With the updated Visual Studio tooling, developers can "publish" services from within the IDE's Solution Explorer. Server Explorer now offers a read-only view of Windows Azure Tables and Blob storage and adds a Windows Azure Compute feature for service monitoring.

The Windows Azure Content Delivery Network, designed for edge caching of public Windows Azure Blobs that are less than 10GB, is generally available, starting today. The service, which was previewed in November, is designed to provide higher bandwidth by copying content and moving it closer to end users. Microsoft is expected to start billing for the CDN service July 1st.

SQL Azure was enhanced to support spatial data types and up to 50-GB storage. Microsoft is also previewing the SQL Azure Data Sync Service, which uses the Microsoft Sync Framework to enable synchronization of SQL Azure databases in Windows Azure data centers. This is an extension of the Data Sync for SQL Azure tooling, found in the Microsoft Sync Framework PowerPack for SQL Azure November CTP, which utilized the Microsoft Sync Framework to sync SQL Server on-premise data with SQL Azure services.

The SQL Azure Data Sync Service furthers the Project Huron vision, according to Microsoft program manager Liam Cavanagh, who is offering a TechEd session (June 8) on the new service and its potential use with clients such as Silverlight and Windows Phone 7. He explained in the Microsoft Sync Framework blog today:

"[I]t provides you the ability to extend that data to the location closest to your end users. All the while our scheduled synchronization service moves changes back and forth between these databases ensuring that changes get propagated to each of the databases in the data center. In conjunction with SQL Azure Data Sync, this data can also be synchronized back on-premises."

Microsoft will start to add registered users to the SQL Azure Data Sync preview next week, according to Cavanagh. Register here by clicking on SQL Azure Data Sync.

Microsoft SQL Server Web Manager, described as a management tool for developing and deploying Web applications was also announced.

In addition, the Bing Map App SDK is available for download starting today. It enables developers to use their own data with Bing Maps to create applications and services. Qualified apps may be featured in the Bing Maps Gallery. According to Chris Pendleton, the Microsoft Bing Maps Tech Evangelist, the developer sandbox is the actual Bing Maps site, which has been upgraded to Silverlight 4. The Silverlight Pivot Viewer for data visualizations is expected this month, according to today's announcements. Read more about the SDK and new apps here.

Windows Service Packs in July

The Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 betas are expected in July. Windows 7 SP1 will include all patches and security fixes, rather than new features, according to Muglia. The Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 will add enhanced graphics support for desktop virtualization with Remote FX, technology that stems from the Calista Technologies acquisition. An extension to Hyper-V for allocating resources called Dynamic Memory will be available in Standard, Web, Enterprise and Data Center editions. Microsoft announced the Service Packs in March.

The Windows Server AppFabric was also released to manufacturing today. The AppFabric extensions help manage composite apps, through an app server (Dublin) and distributed caching (Velocity), to enable highly scalable Web applications, according to Microsoft. The technology is available at no additional cost to people with licenses for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

The obligatory glitch during the keynote came during the demo of the social networking features of Office Communications Server "14," expected later this year. Microsoft Communicator 2010 Attendee, a meeting app with support for a soft phone and high definition video (720p HD) enabled by third-party Web cams was highlighted. While the virtual meeting seemed to work, the real time Office document sharing fizzled when PowerPoint wouldn't load. Communication Server integrates with Exchange Server 2010 and SharePoint 2010.

In other news, the Microsoft Exchange Server SP1 Beta is available today for download. The Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) v2 Beta is slated for the fourth quarter, according to today's announcements.

Some highlights of the keynote included a look at the Chicago Tribune's use of Windows Azure, which is allowing the media company to downsize from 32 datacenters to three, two of its own and one run by Microsoft. James Cameron made a video appearance to discuss Project GAIA, a customized app built with help from Microsoft that provided a digital hub and repository for Avatar data and files, which required fail proof security.

Dogfooding was another topic as Microsoft CIO Tony Scott talked about how IT is handled at Microsoft. "Everything we do from here on out, we are developing for the cloud first," he said.

About the Author

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

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