At PDC10 last month, we announced a host of enhancements for Windows Azure designed to make it easier for customers to run existing Windows applications on Windows Azure, enable more affordable platform access and improve the Windows Azure developer and IT Professional experience. Today, we're happy to announce that several of these enhancements are either generally available or ready for you to try as a Beta or Community Technology Preview (CTP).  Below is a list of what's now available, along with links to more information.

The following functionality is now generally available through the Windows Azure SDK and Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio release 1.3 and the new Windows Azure Management Portal:

  • Development of more complete applications using Windows Azure is now possible with the introduction of Elevated Privileges and Full IIS. Developers can now run a portion or all of their code in Web and Worker roles with elevated administrator privileges. The Web role now provides Full IIS functionality, which enables multiple IIS sites per Web role and the ability to install IIS modules.
  • Remote Desktop functionality enables customers to connect to a running instance of their application or service in order to monitor activity and troubleshoot common problems.
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Roles: Windows Azure now supports Windows Server 2008 R2 in its Web, worker and VM roles. This new support enables you to take advantage of the full range of Windows Server 2008 R2 features such as IIS 7.5, AppLocker, and enhanced command-line and automated management using PowerShell Version 2.0.
  • Multiple Service Administrators: Windows Azure now supports multiple Windows Live IDs to have administrator privileges on the same Windows Azure account. The objective is to make it easy for a team to work on the same Windows Azure account while using their individual Windows Live IDs.
  • Better Developer and IT Professional Experience: The following enhancements are now available to help developers see and control how their applications are running in the cloud:
  • A completely redesigned Silverlight-based Windows Azure portal to ensure an improved and intuitive user experience
  • Access to new diagnostic information including the ability to click on a role to see role type, deployment time and last reboot time
  • A new sign-up process that dramatically reduces the number of steps needed to sign up for Windows Azure.
  • New scenario based Windows Azure Platform forums to help answer questions and share knowledge more efficiently.

The following functionality is now available as beta:

  • Windows Azure Virtual Machine Role: Support for more types of new and existing Windows applications will soon be available with the introduction of the Virtual Machine (VM) role. Customers can move more existing applications to Windows Azure, reducing the need to make costly code or deployment changes.
  • Extra Small Windows Azure Instance, which is priced at $0.05 per compute hour, provides developers with a cost-effective training and development environment. Developers can also use the Extra Small instance to prototype cloud solutions at a lower cost.

Developers and IT Professionals can sign up for either of the betas above via the Windows Azure Management Portal.

  • Windows Azure Marketplace is an online marketplace for you to share, buy and sell building block components, premium data sets, training and services needed to build Windows Azure platform applications. The first section in the Windows Azure Marketplace, DataMarket, became commercially available at PDC 10. Today, we're launching a beta of the application section of the Windows Azure Marketplace with 40 unique partners and over 50 unique applications and services. 

We are also making the following available as a CTP:

  • Windows Azure Connect (formerly Project Sydney), which enables a simple and easy-to-manage mechanism to set up IP-based network connectivity between on-premises and Windows Azure resources, is the first Windows Azure Virtual Network feature that we're making available as a CTP. Developers and IT Professionals can sign up for this CTP via the Windows Azure Management Portal.

But there is more:

Microsoft provides you different ways to assist you in making cloud computing and Windows Azure in particular more accessible to you and your business.

  • Windows Azure Introductory Special: This is a new offer specially made for you. Limited of one per customer and includes a base amount of the Windows Azure platform services with no monthly commitment.
  • Windows Azure for MSDN Subscribers: This is a special offer only available to MSDN subscribers providing a total of 16-month free access to the Windows Azure Platform.

Building your first application on the Windows Azure Platform is easy and can be done using these simple steps:

  1. Download the Tools: Get Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio to start building and debugging applications for Windows Azure.
  2. Create your first local application: Learn how to create a simple ASP.NET application in Visual Studio for Windows Azure.
  3. Deploy your application to the cloud: Learn how to deploy and run your sample application in Windows Azure.

If you would like to see an overview of all the new features that we're making available, please watch an overview webcast . You can also watch on-demand sessions from PDC10 that dive deeper into many of these Windows Azure features; check here for a full list of sessions.  A full recap of all that was announced for the Windows Azure platform at PDC10 can be found here.  For all other questions, please refer to the latest FAQ.