You may have noticed that Brian and I have been absent from the blog a lot recently, that's because we've been working on content for the Windows Azure spring release that went live earlier today. Here's a short guide on what's new in this update that is of interest to Open Source developers:

Languages & tools

There's a refresh to the node and Java SDKs, a major refresh to the PHP SDK, and we're adding Python as a supported language so there's a new Python SDK for that.

There's an update to the tooling also; the former Windows PowerShell for Node SDK is now Windows Azure Powershell and provides scaffolding for both PHP and node, as well as more general management cmdlets.

But PowerShell is a Windows thing, and maybe you're not a Windows person. That's cool, because we now have Windows Azure cross-platform tools. These are based on node, so even though we talk about them primarily for Mac and Linux they should run pretty much anywhere node runs.

You can get the tools from WindowsAzure.com by selecting your language and then clicking the installer for your platform. Note that you should also be able to just run npm install azure -g to install the cross-platform tools if you're a node developer.

Oh, and there's also a new Windows Azure Management Portal which is HTML5 based. It's in preview mode, and not all Azure functionality is available in the new portal yet. If you need to switch back to the old portal you can click Preview at the top of the page and switch back that way. The portal you're viewing is sticky however, so if you find yourself in the old version you can switch back to the new preview by clicking Visit the Preview Portal at the bottom of the old portal.

Windows Azure Web Sites

This is a new feature for people who want to just host a web site. If you've deployed a project to Windows Azure in the past, you know that the project structure and deployment process were complex and that it took a long time for the deployment to come online. Even for a simple site.

With Web Sites, it takes all that hassle away and lets you provision a new web site from the portal or command line, and lets you publish your site using git. The publish process is fast too, like a couple seconds fast, which is a refreshing change from the old way of doing things.

Web Sites is a preview feature, so you have to enable it for your subscription by going to https://account.windowsazure.com/, selecting preview and then clicking the try it now button in the Web Sites section.

WebMatrix

So this is more of a Windows developer thing, but WebMatrix 2 can be launched directly from a web site in the portal and lets you edit node and PHP sites, so it sits at that junction of cloud, windows, and OSS.

SQL Database (formerly SQL Azure) or... MySQL?

Yes, it's true; you can now provision a MySQL database on Windows Azure. It's pretty easy actually, to the point that you can provision one when creating a new web site.

But SQL gets some love too; a SQL Server driver for node.js. You can read more about it at the official blog post.

All this and a gallery too?

When you create a new web site, you have the option of creating an empty site or picking from a gallery of software packages such as Drupal, Joomla! and WordPress. This will create a new site and setup the selected package for you.

Persistent VMs

The Windows Azure VM role has been revamped and is now persistent (about time!) and also supports running Linux. You can BYOL or select a pre-packaged images of popular distros such as CentOS, SUSE, or Ubuntu, which are provided by our partners.

Name changes

So we mentioned earlier the 'old' way of deploying projects to Windows Azure using Web and Worker roles. That's still around and is useful for larger, more complex projects, only now it's called Cloud Services. SQL Azure is now SQL Database, and there's a variety of other name changes, but things are still recognizable.

TL;DR

Cross-platform tools, support for Python, Windows Azure Web Sites for fast, easy deployment of web apps, MySQL, persistent VMs and Linux on Windows Azure, and a SQL driver for Node.js.

Links

So it's not Friday yet, but there's a lot of information out there right now on Windows Azure so here's a few relevant links to information: