Microsoft opens Azure to PHP developers

Microsoft's vision is to open up its cloud platform to even more languages

Microsoft at the Mix09 conference on Wednesday revealed several moves intended to bolster its Windows Azure cloud computing platform, adding support for PHP application development and native code as well as full trust capabilities.

"Windows Azure is metaphorically the operating system for the cloud," said Prashant Ketkar, director of product marketing for cloud infrastructure services at Microsoft, in an interview at the conference in Las Vegas.

[ Fast-changing platforms will challenge developers, read: "Developing cloud apps: What's different?" | And in other news from Mix09, Microsoft cited design updates as economic booster. ]

Specific improvements made this week include expanding beyond managed code to native code support; enablement of full trust, which is how most applications or services are written; and offering FastCGI support to allow PHP development.

"Basically, the Windows Server team has done a ton of work with FastCGI that allows Windows Server to now support programming languages beyond just .Net and Visual Studio," Ketkar said. Through the FastCGI interface, developers can take existing PHP skills and PHP applications and services and run them on Azure.

Developers might also be able to run other languages via FastCGI, said Ketkar. Microsoft, though, has done stress-testing for PHP but not for other languages. "There is no reason that Ruby won't work through that same FastCGI interface," he said.

Microsoft's vision is to open up the platform to more languages, Ketkar said. Microsoft wants Azure to offer a "frictionless" development platform beyond just supporting .Net development, he said.

With full trust capabilities, Microsoft is expanding Azure beyond the medium trust capabilities that it had had since its original launch at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in October 2008.

Another Azure capability revealed this week was support for geo-location, in which developers can pick a geography where they want an application or service to run. This helps with latency issues, enabling, for example, a service to run in an East Coast datacenter if the user is on the East Coast, Ketkar said. Also, storage and compute elements could run in the same place.

There are certain circumstances, though, when users would not want to run an application in the cloud, such as if there were specific compliance issues or control over physical assets was needed, Ketkar said.

Regarding the outage Azure recently suffered, Ketkar said Microsoft was learning from the experience, and he noted the technology still is in a pre-released, community technology preview format.

Azure will be commercially launched by the end of this calendar year. A business model, including prices and service level agreement rules, will be announced this summer.

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