Microsoft tunes Windows Azure cloud for developers

At Build conference, company debuts Azure Mobile Services for mobile back-end app capabilities, Azure Web Sites for 'business-grade' Web apps

Microsoft continues to position its Windows Azure cloud platform as a place for software developers, adding services on Thursday for mobile and Web development.

At its Build 2013 developer conference in San Francisco, the company announced general availability of Windows Azure Mobile Services, for creating mobile back-end application capabilities, and Windows Azure Web Sites, for building and managing "business-grade" Web applications. Mobile Services offers native SDKs for Windows Store, Windows Phone, Google Android, Apple iOS, HTML5, and REST APIs, while Web Sites supports such languages and frameworks as ASP.Net, PHP, Node.js, and Python. Web Sites also offers such features as load balancing and source control.

The natural symmetry between the cloud and developers was noted by Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president in the Microsoft Developer and Tools Business: "Certainly, one of our constituents in terms of customers that use it is certainly developers." Microsoft has focused on tooling and APIs for Azure with developers in mind. The company also is forging close ties between its Visual Studio IDE and Azure, Guthrie acknowledged. Visual Studio 2013, offered in a preview form on Thursday, offers stronger capablities for deployment right to Azure, including debugging and code editing.

Build also featured a preview of application access enhancements for Windows Azure Active Directory, providing single sign-on to cloud applications. In addition, Microsoft previewed Azure's Auto Scale capability for scaling applications. "It's a really great feature that allows you to dynamically scale up or scale down your apps and services when you're hosted in the cloud," Guthrie said.

Microsoft's cloud accommodations for developers are akin to what Google has been doing on its own Google App Engine platform. Google provides for building and hosting Web applications on App Engine, with access to multiple services, scalability, and backing for different programming languages. Thursday's moves in the cloud application space follow up another Microsoft move onto Google turf, as the company expanded its Bing search platform, which could rival what Google is doing with its own vaunted search technology.

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