Microsoft is taking big strides to make its Azure cloudservice more attractive. The company has announced several updates to theplatform aimed at improving its usability. The company, which haslong been criticized for a less-than-friendly stance on open source, iscontinuing to show that giants can change. Several of the recently announcedupdates improve support for open source development on Azure.

A Friendlier, More Open Azure

Microsoft is in an ultra-competitive battle to be one of thetopmajor infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service vendors.Amazon’sAWS still dominates the sector, but Microsoft continues toimprove its offeringin hopes of catching up with the industry leader.Microsoft has released itslatest round of Windows Azure and SQL Azureenhancements. The most recentupdate includes:

  • An Azure software development kit (SDL) for.Net, Java andNode.js. The SDK is licensed under an Apache license and isavailable on GitHub.Inclusion ofNode.jas is particularly notable since a stable Windowsversion of the popularNode.js JavaScript framework was announced onlylast month.
  • A preview of Hadoop for Azure that the companyis developing with the support of Hortonworks. The CTP release should be availablethis week for a “limited” set of customers.
  • Updates to several open source tools like the Azureplugin for Eclipse, a preview release of MongoDB and support for Memcached.
  • Tripled the maximum data size in SQL Azure. Theincrease is free and requires no subscription changes.
  • Support for SQL Azure Federation.

In addition to the feature changes, Microsoft has also madeseveralchanges to its pricing structures and management tools. The Windows Azure management portal now features a Windows 8 Metro style userinterface.


SQL Azure now has a new price cap that lowers the price pergigabyteby approximately 67%. The company is also indicating that the datatransferprice in North America and Europe is being reduced by 25% and Service Bus usage is free through March 2012. Microsoft is hoping to attract new users to the service by offering afree90-day trial with generous spending caps for usage.

Learning Opportunities

Although the release includes a substantial set of improvements,itis missing a few that Microsoft had promised before the end of 2011 intheirsummer Azure roadmap. The platform is still missing:

  • application server virtualization support
  • the final build of Azure reporting services (theupdate included another CTP)
  • VM role support

What This Means

Although Microsoft has traditionally focused on developmentwith itstools and products, its moves indicate the company has acknowledged the closed, company-centric approach is no longerpractical.Developers and companies have embraced services like AWS,that don’t restrictdevelopment style or technologies. Web developmenthas become a polyglot endeavorand all companies, including giants likeMicrosoft, must support it if they areto be successful.