Microsoft is making its Windows Azure cloud-based platform more developer-friendly. At the Build 2013 developer conference taking place in San Francisco, the technology giant announced several new services for Azure, including ones for mobile and Web sites.
The company said Windows Azure Mobile Services will now be made generally available. It is designed to provide a back end for mobile apps, including data storage, authentication of users and the sending of push notifications. Mobile Services supports apps on iOS, Android, Windows Phone and the Web.
Developers can acquire native software development kits from Mobile Services for Windows Store, Windows Phone, Google Android, Apple iOS, HTML5 and REST APIs. The service supports ASP.Net, PHP, Node.js and Python, and provides load balancing and source control.
Azure Web Sites
The other newly announced service is Windows Azure Web Sites, which enables the development of Web sites on a platform that is massively scalable. The company pointed to beer brewer Heineken, which has used the Azure platform for its social pinball game. The Azure platform was chosen so that Heineken could quickly scale up to millions of interactions as needed and, Microsoft said, the final release actually exceeded those expectations but there were no scalability issues.
Additionally, Microsoft is improving connections between its Visual Studio IDE and the Azure platform, such as support for deployment directly to Azure, in the coming Visual Studio 2013.
The company also showed off new features in Azure's Active Directory, such as single sign-on, and demonstrated the new Auto Scale functionality for scaling up or down, as needed, the server capacity supporting applications. Developers can readily manage the scaling, including setting top and bottom limits or specifying a targeted load for CPUs, via Azure's management console.
The developer-friendly additions on Azure parallel those on Google's cloud platform, such as auto-scaling. As part of its overall cloud-enhancement strategy, Microsoft has been positioning Azure in the last few months as a full cloud infrastructure, instead of primarily being a platform-as-a-service (PaaS). This puts Windows Azure into direct competition not only with Google, but also with Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, Joyent and others.
Microsoft has told news media that Infrastructure-as-a-Service already takes up about 20 percent of Azure's activity, compared with 80 percent used for PaaS. By October, the company is projecting a 50-50 split.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, said Microsoft "has been playing catch-up in mobile and search," and the developer enhancements are part of the company's catch-up for cloud computing.
Microsoft has been building on its strengths, she said, which include integration with its software products and its strength in the , and "now they want to connect the dots and open up" Azure to applications that use other platforms.