Last night several Windows Azure updates were announced, and this evening there is a live event for people new to Azure being broadcast online from 5pm UK time, with a keynote from Scott Guthrie.

What kind of things are in the update?

  • Updated website: http://WindowsAzure.com (which of course, runs on Windows Azure)
  • Integration of MSDN membership / Azure usage
  • Billing caps for MSDN/free trials – eg. when you sign up for Free Trial or activate your MSDN account, your trial is automatically capped so you won’t go over your usage by accident (still requires a credit card for security/validation reasons)
  • Automatic MSDN detection – if a user signs in to the Azure site with the same Live ID as their MSDN account, we will auto-detect that they have free usage
  • Bigger SQL Azure databases, now up to 150GB (up from recent 100GB, and original 50GB) & SQL Azure scale out support

Open Source Announcements

A significant part of the announcement was an update on a wide range of Open Source developments on Windows Azure. These updates are the latest incremental improvements to Windows Azure that shows how Microsoft has been working with the Open Source community to make sure Azure works well with as many different technologies as possible.

As Gianugo Rabellino, Microsoft’s Senior Director of Open Source Communities, notes in his blog post summarising all this Open Source goodness: “We understand that there are many different technologies that developers may want to use to build applications in the cloud. Developers want to use the tools that best fit their experience, skills, and application requirements, and our goal is to enable that choice. In keeping with that goal, we are extremely happy to be delivering new and improved experiences for Node.js, MongoDB, Hadoop, Solr and Memcached on Windows Azure.”

This delivers on our ongoing commitment to provide an experience where developers can build applications on Windows Azure using the languages and frameworks they already know, enable greater customer flexibility for managing and scaling databases, and making it easier for customers to get started and use cloud computing on their terms with Windows Azure.

Here are the highlights of the announcements:

* The Windows Azure SDK for Node.js has been released as open source, available immediately on Github. These libraries are the perfect complement to the recently announced contributions to Node.js and provide a better Node.js experience on Windows Azure. You can find documentation, tutorial, samples and how-to guides to get you started with Node.js on Windows Azure here.

* The Node.js package manager for Windows (npm) code has also been delivered to allow use of npm on Windows for simpler and faster Node.js configuration and development. Windows developers can now use npm to install Node modules and take advantage of its automated handling of module dependencies and other details.

* To build on the recent announcement about Apache Hadoop, a limited preview of the Apache Hadoop based distribution service is available on Windows Azure. This enables Hadoop apps to be deployed in hours instead of days, and includes Hadoop Javascript libraries and powerful insights on data through the ODBC driver and Excel plugin for Hive.

* For those NoSQL fans, we have been working closely with 10Gen and the MongoDB community in the past few months. At MongoSV last week we showed MongoDB running on Windows Azure. The 10Gen website has downloads, documentation and other document-oriented goodies.

* This release also brings updated Java support, including a new and revamped Eclipse plugin. The new features include a much better experience thanks to new and exciting functionality such as support for sticky sessions and configuration of remote Java debugging. You can learn more at the Azure Developer Center.

* We also just released a set of code tools and configuration guidelines to get the most out of Solr running on Windows Azure. Developers are invited to try out the tools, configuration and sample code for Solr, tuned for searching commercial and publisher sites. The published guidance showcases how to configure and host Solr/Lucene in Windows Azure using multi-instance replication for index-serving and single-instance for index generation with a persistent index mounted in Windows Azure storage.

* Another great example of OSS on Windows Azure is the use of Memcached server, the popular open-source caching technology, to improve the performance of dynamic web applications. Maarten Balliauw recently blogged about his MemcacheScaffolder, which simplifies management of Memcached servers on the Windows Azure platform. That blog post is only focused on PHP, but the same approach can be used by other languages supported by Memcached as well.

* Scaling data in the Cloud is very important. Today, the SQL Azure team made SQL Azure Federation available. This new feature provides built-in support for data sharding (horizontal partitioning of data) to elastically scale-out data in the cloud. Concurrent with the release of this new feature, we have released a new specification called SQL Database Federations, which describes additional SQL capabilities that enable data sharding for scalability in the cloud, under the Microsoft Open Specification Promise. With those additional SQL capabilities, the database tier can provide built-in support for data sharding to elastically scale-out data in the cloud, as covered in Ram Jeyaraman’s post on this blog.

You can find all the details on the full Windows Azure news here, and more information on the Open Source updates here or here.