Today at //build we showed how easy it is to use Windows Azure as the cloud backend for developing modern apps, regardless of whether you’re developing mobile, client, web-based, or enterprise applications.   You can check out some really great examples of this in the //build day 2 keynote including how Windows Azure powers Halo 4 and will support millions of concurrent users, and how it provides the backend engine for USA Today to provide push notifications (headlines, money and tech) on a single framework that supports multiple formats. The keynote also covers how companies like Workday are building Windows 8 enterprise apps that leverage Windows Azure as the cloud backend.

We also announced a number of great improvements to Windows Azure to help developers use the cloud to power their applications.  Here is a rundown of what’s new in Windows Azure:

  • Windows Server 2012 & .NET 4.5 in Cloud Services (web & worker roles) (GA) - Windows Server 2012 is now available as a guest operating system for Cloud Services. Windows Server 2012 delivers hundreds of new features for IT professionals and developers. Cloud Services users can now take advantage of these new features and enhancements when building modern apps on top of Windows Server 2012.  In addition we’ve added support for applications written with .NET framework 4.5 through the new October 2012 SDK.  This new version of the .NET framework brings a wealth of great new features to developers. And, we continue to support the prior versions of the .NET framework through former versions of the SDK, which customers can run side by side with the October 2012 SDK.
  • Windows Phone 8 Support (Preview) - A few weeks ago we announced Windows Azure Mobile Services - a new capability in Windows Azure that makes it incredibly easy to connect your client and mobile applications to a scalable cloud backend. Windows Phone 8 just launched and we’re excited to announce we’ve added Windows Phone 8 support to our mobile services offering.  Check out this tutorial to see how you can add a cloud backend to your Windows Mobile 8 app in just a few minutes.
  • Windows Azure Store (Preview) –The Windows Azure Store provides developers with third party app services and data that complement and extend core Windows Azure services.  These add-ons are accessed and managed directly from the developer portal, making discovery, billing, and management completely integrated with the Windows Azure management experience.  Check out the initial catalog of app services and data providers, which includes AppDynamics (monitoring and scaling as a service), New Relic (performance management and monitoring), SendGrid (email delivery as a service), Dun & Bradstreet (business insights), Loqate
    (Worldwide address verification and cleansing service), StrikeIron (Phone number verification service; Sales and use tax rates lookup service), and more.
  • New SDK (GA) - In support of Windows Server 2012 as an option in Cloud Services we’ve released Windows Azure SDK for .NET - October 2012.  Customers will be able run the November 2011, June 2012, and October 2012 SDK's side by side.  We are also adding Service Management API support for Python developers as well as adding support for Node.js in Windows Azure Mobile Services. Additional updates include support for caching in Cloud Services, updated VS tooling, and .NET client libraries for Storage and Service BusWindows Azure PowerShell has also been updated with new commands, including support for Windows Azure Web Sites.
  • Windows Azure Distributed Caching (GA) – Last June we introduced the preview of a new distributed cache capability that enables you to use and setup a low latency, in-memory distributed cache within your applications.  We’re pleased to announce this service has now moved to general availability. Key features include the ability to scale up to 300+ GB of cached data, and Memcache protocol support that enables memcache based apps to run in Windows Azure without a code change.
  • Visual Studio Team Foundation Service Availability (TFService) –  We announced the  next release of TFService, a cloud-hosted version of Team Foundation Server (TFS), which delivers application lifecycle management (ALM) services for modern app development, including agile project planning and management tools, version control, build automation and continuous deployment automation needed to effectively manage software development projects. We also are announcing a free usage plan for development teams up to 5 users as well as additional benefits for MSDN subscribers.  You can get started and sign up now at http://tfs.visualstudio.com, or can check out more details on TFService here.

We’re excited about these new features and enhancements in Windows Azure and hope you like them.  We’re also excited about the possibilities Windows Azure provides as your scalable cloud platform for developing modern apps and can’t wait to see what you build. As always, please send us your feedback.

     - Bill Hilf, General Manager, Windows Azure.