Microsoft is pushing Azure cloud service to the 5,000 attendees at its management conference this week, encouraging them to take advantage of the system now for specific tasks but to keep in mind that it fits into a full-blown hybrid-cloud framework that may become more attractive to them over time.
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The company says it has also extended the reach of its System Center Management platform to provide insight into the performance of resources hosted within Azure. And customers can now use Azure's global points of presence to find out how well customer-facing services are performing to form a user's perspective around the world.
These new services are a lure to get businesses familiar with Azure and, Microsoft hopes, to adopt its overarching model for hybrid clouds called Cloud OS, which blends resources hosted in private clouds, in public clouds hosted by other service providers and in Azure, making them accessible to users as if they are all in the same location.
This enables creation of "data centers without boundaries," says Vice President of Microsoft Windows Server and Systems Center Group Brad Anderson. "A lot of you are making decisions on what you're cloud platform is going to be," he says. "Let us be that cloud platform."
The platform is made up of Windows Server, Systems Center and SQL server which can run as a private cloud or as a public cloud run by third-party service provider and is the backbone of Azure. It is that consistent platform that can enable, for example, creating supplemental SQL storage in Azure on the fly as more space is needed, Microsoft says.
Running Azure gives Microsoft insight into what is needed to run a cloud and that is reflected in developments of the products that make it up, Anderson says. Cloud services Microsoft runs include Office 365, Skype, MSN, Outlook.com, XboxLive, SkyDrive, and Bing.
To make Azure more attractive as a supplement to Microsoft's cloud products that businesses already own, Microsoft announced several new offerings: