If you have attended one of the recent IT Camps and seen me speak, I’ve mentioned in passing that we’ve primarily marketed Windows Azure to Developers.  With the recent announcement on the updates to Windows Azure, that is no longer the case.  For example, the VM Role functionality previously available to IT Pros and organizations allowed a user to upload a Virtual Machine to Windows Azure, however, that VM was stateless (i.e. non-persistent), meaning that the state of that VM was subject to change if the VM was moved to a different host.  I often refer to this as a “lab in the cloud” offering as this solution was not acceptable for production usage with a VM in the Windows Azure cloud solution, since we didn’t guarantee the uptime of those VMs if the VM was moved for operational reasons.  With this most recent change in functionality, the VM Role functionality in Windows Azure is now production-ready.

Yesterday, Microsoft announced previews of new Windows Azure services that help developers build applications that connect data to users across public and private clouds, take advantage of VHDs and deploy scalable websites quickly and cheaply. 

Today, Scott Guthrie will host “Meet Windows Azure” to introduce these new services.  On Monday, as part of TechEd North America and broadcast live online, Scott, along with Mark Russinovich, Quentin Clark, and Bill Staples will host “Learn Windows Azure” to provide deeper demonstration of the latest Windows Azure features and services to build, deploy, and manage applications in the cloud.

Among the highlights of the announcements made yesterday:

· Windows Azure Virtual Machines enable the moving of workloads on virtual hard disks (VHDs) between on-premises environments and the cloud.  Windows Azure supports both Windows and Linux VHD images, which can be customized or chosen from a pre-populated gallery.  With the commonly supported VHD format, developers and IT Pros can move existing workloads like a SQL Server database or an existing line-of-business application into Windows Azure to create greater scale, lower cost or deploy to new users.  As I mentioned above and have discussed previously when referencing using a Private Cloud architecture, this release of Windows Azure will allow IT Pros to deploy VMs to the cloud.  Linux support in Azure includes versions of SUSE, Red Hat, Ubuntu as well as CentOS.

· Windows Azure Virtual Network enables the creation, extension and management of virtual private networks into Windows Azure.  Organizations can now more effectively and securely extend their corporate networks into the cloud.  I’ve mentioned this functionality often when discussing Windows Azure and we’re extended this functionality even further with this most recent announcement.

· Windows Azure Web Sites makes building .NET, Node.js, Java and PHP web experiences easier and cheaper than ever while supporting deployment techniques like Git and FTP and framework applications like WordPress, Joomla!, DotNetNuke, Umbraco and Drupal that web developers already know and trust. Even if you’re a non-Dev like me, I encourage you to look at the pricing of this solution to discuss with your developers as a place to put your websites as it’s ultra robust and VERY inexpensive

· Python support, new Tools  The new Windows Azure SDK (June 2012) includes updated support for Java, PHP and .NET and adds Python support, while providing 100% command line support for developers using a Windows PC or a Mac.  

I encourage you to tune into Learn Windows Azure on Monday to learn more.

Enjoy!