Microsoft’s Cloud Computing Service Unveiled: Windows Azure

Recently at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft unveiled their latest plans to revolutionise the internet and computing.

Where Web2.0 brought interactivity to the internet, Windows Asure, will bring all the functions of a personal computer to the internet. The idea is that applications and data can be stored on internet servers, allowing uses to access their “personal computer” from any computer with an internet connection.

Microsoft’s chief software architect Ray Ozzie describes this new platform as “Windows for the cloud”. Windows Azure is likely to be available with the next Windows operating system release, Windows 7. This development is exciting for Microsoft, as it shows that Microsoft can still take on the established players Google and Amazon in the online software market.

Google is planning greater things with its Android operating system and Chrome browser, but currently this technology still seems to be some way off. Microsoft seem to be one step ahead of Google in this instance.

The main obkective of Azure is to provide a platform for developers to build new applications which will run on the internet. This will make collaboration easier, and people will be able to share documents from any pc much easier.

Windows Azure is likely to appeal to businesses more than individual consumers to start with, as it will enable businesses to have much greater control over software deployed across a company.

Microsoft’s cloud will really just be a huge collection of servers and data centres across the global, that can all interact and share information. The “cloud” will be open to everyone that has a computer and internet connection.

The future internet user will want to store far more of their data, from letters to photos to videos, on the servers in its “cloud” of giant data centres around the world, so that it can be accessed anywhere, from any device.

This development represents a shift in Microsoft’s corporate strategy. In some ways, Windows Azure will be a rival for social networks such as Facebook. With Facebook, users have photo albums, place to leave notes, emails and a plethora of applications and tools.

Business have yet to utilise Facebook for sharing documents and other business collaborations, however there is really no reason why this cannot be done already.

Another reason that cloud computing will become more appealing to business is that often limited server space can hold a fast growing business back.

With Azure, a business will be able to rapidly expand without fear of suddenly finding that it needs to install new servers to allow growth the continue. It may also appeal especially to web based companies and larger social networks that want to quick build new online applications.

For the consumer, the main benefits are likely to be the peace of mind of having data backed up off site in a trustworthy location. Until now, Microsoft has relied solely on its operating systems and office utilities for its main revenue source, but Azure call see this all change, as Microsoft diversifies into new Web2.0 territory.

Google already has a growing collection of online applications available on its servers, or on their “cloud”. Google Docs, which includes notepads, collaborative word processing documents, is not concerned by Microsoft’s move.

Sam Schillace, says he is not worried by the arrival of a big new rival. “Competition, even stiff competition from Microsoft doesn’t bother us because it will either make the internet as a whole better or it will be irrelevant to making it better.”

Without naming Microsoft, Mr Schillace drew a contrast between the old model of “bloaty” software and a more open future where online applications would be updated virtually every week. “The way people work and the way people communicate, openness and velocity and nimbleness and focus are much more valuable and I think that’s a very big shift.”

Amazon has created its Elastic Cloud Service, on which runs its eCommerce solutions, and has been benefitting from cloud technology for sometime.

It also now provides internet server storage space for consumers. Amazon’s servers are also used by a wide range of customers, including Facebook, the worlds leading social networking site. In his speech in Los Angeles, Microsoft’s Ray Ozzie said he “tipped his hat” at Amazon for its work in this field, saying “we are all standing on their shoulders.”

Microsoft is taking a different approach from some of its rivals, insisting that its customers still want to be able to choose to have their software offline, on their own computers, as well as online in the web cloud.

“We believe deeply in on-premises software and we believe deeply in this new world of software in the cloud,” said Ray Ozzie.

It’s a strategy which rivals will say is designed to protect the profits from its existing software products. But the scene is set for a battle in the clouds between the few big companies wealthy enough to be able to build the huge data centres on which this new form of computing will depend.

One likely spin off from this would be micro clouds, where tech savvy users set up their own clouds to share applications and photos.

Families may start to share servers. In a way, it could even mean a return to the “dumb terminal” with people’s computer merely acting as a means to connect to the mainframe server, which hosts all of the applications, emails, games and files for each cloud user.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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