The spring preview release of Windows Azure has many great new features and capabilities, including new services focused on helping you build or bring applications to the cloud in ways that make sense for your environment. These new preview services include: Windows Azure Web Sites, Virtual Machines, and Media Services. These services will go live with our new Windows Azure web site (www.windowsazure.com) and management portal (manage.windowsazure.com) at approximately 3pm PT on June 7th.

Below is a quick overview of each new offering to get you started ... More to come in future posts!

Windows Azure Web Sites. Get started for free using shared instances and scale as you go using reserved instances for greater isolation and performance. Ten shared-instance websites are free for one year, and any reserved instances that you use are significantly discounted during the preview period.  In addition to deploying .NET web sites, it's now easy to also run open source apps on Windows Azure, such as Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla, Umbraco and DotNetNuke!

Windows Azure Virtual Machines & Virtual Networking. Virtual Machines gives you application mobility so you can move your existing applications back and forth between on-premises and the Windows Azure cloud. Not just limited to Windows VM, with these new features you can also run several popular Linux distributions as VMs on Windows Azure! Once your VMs are setup, create your own virtual private network (VPN) in Windows Azure and securely connect your new VMs to your on-premises infrastructure. Virtual Network is available at no charge during preview, while Virtual Machines is significantly discounted off of our current compute rates the during preview period.

Windows Azure Media Services. Media Services offers the flexibility, scalability, and reliability of a cloud service to handle high-quality media experiences for a global audience. Media Services is free during the preview period, but is limited to 1 terabyte of data processing per month.

By providing these new infrastructure-as-a-service options within the Windows Azure cloud, you now have the flexibility to decide on a workload-by-workload basis which infrastructure scenarios makes the most sense for each application in your IT shop: Private Cloud (on-premise), Public Cloud (Azure) or Hybrid (some components running in your Private Cloud, others running in Azure, securely connected with Azure Virtual Networks).  Exciting times are ahead for all of us!