VSLive! NY: A Glimpse of .NET Framework in the Cloud
- By Kathleen Richards
- September 10, 2008
Developers got an indication of Microsoft's unfolding cloud platform strategy
at this week's VSLive!
conference in New York
. Several conference sessions outlined the company's
plans for Software plus Services (S+S) and platforms-as-a-service, which offer
hosted development and runtimes.
Keith Pijanowski, Microsoft strategy platform advisor, outlined the high-level
architecture strategy in a session entitled "Navigating the Software Plus
Services Landscape." According to Pijanowski, Microsoft expects "software
in your datacenter" such as messaging, contact relationship management
(CRM) and document management, essentially app utilities that do not differentiate
your business from the competition to follow "content" (mail, publications,
voice, music and video) into the cloud. Unlike Software as a Service (SaaS),
Microsoft will offer multiple options for on-premise and online clients, applications
S+S is going to create new sellers and, somewhere, there's going to be an old
seller that is not doing so well. "At Microsoft we are hoping that we can
be that old seller that turns into that new seller," Pijanowski said.
To that end, Microsoft is planning to offer both standard and dedicated versions
of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications, Dynamics CRM Online
and Office Live Meeting. Today, Microsoft offers dedicated Exchange and SharePoint
services. Standard services, which employ a multitenant architecture, are expected
to roll out in the next few months, according to Pijanowski.
Also planned are "attached services," which provide higher-level
functionality for S+S application environments. Malware protection, retention
requirements, advanced encryption, and emergency access -- currently available
only for Exchange Online -- will all be delivered via attached services. Pijanowski
said attached services may offer a development opportunity for end users and
ISVs once the model matures, particularly in vertical industries.
"What's nice about attached services is that they can act from afar,"
Pijanowski said. End users don't have to worry about installation or configuration
Custom Services and .NET
In Microsoft's view, developers will need to integrate their hosted utility
apps with custom line of business apps and Web services, which will require
dev platforms for integration in the cloud, federated identity (single sign-on)
and data storage.
A key component of Redmond's S+S strategy is BizTalk
Services, a project described as the "enterprise service bus"
for the cloud platform during an "Introduction to BizTalk Services"
session led by Microsoft Regional Director Vishwas Lele, the chief technology
officer at Applied Information Sciences.
BizTalk Services, which is available for testing, falls into the category of
platform-as-a-service, according to Lele, because it offers hosted development
and runtime. Developed to help companies integrate their apps beyond the enterprise,
BizTalk Services supports messaging (Windows Communication Foundation), identity
(Windows CardSpace) and workflow (Windows Workflow Foundation). The BizTalk
Labs SDK offers .NET extensions for HTTP and RSS.
The first offering from Microsoft in the platform-as-a-service category is
Server Data Services. Announced in March, SQL Server Data Services is a
relational data storage platform based on SQL Server that is currently available
as a community technology preview.
SQL Server Data Services is Microsoft's entry into data storage in the cloud,
a burgeoning market where Amazon has seen exponential growth since it introduced
its Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) in March 2006. Mike Culver, a
former Microsoft technology evangelist who now heads the Developer Relations
Group for Amazon Web Services, compared the rise of utilities for computing
to an electric utility model where you only pay for what you use, when you use
"The reason we were able to get traction right away is because people
understand Amazon.com and they know that Amazon knows how to run a high-class
datacenter," Culver said during his session on "Scaling ASP.NET with
Cloud-Based Content Delivery," in which he described the Amazon S3 architecture
as somewhat similar to RAID.
In addition to providing further details on BizTalk Services and SQL Server
Data Services, Microsoft is expected next month to outline its new technology
for federated identity. The company's Federated
Identity labs project should be addressed at the Professional Developers
Conference (PDC) in October. "We have really interesting capabilities coming
out in the next few months," Pijanowski said.
Third-party service providers will also play a key role in Microsoft S+S strategy.
The service providers buy the hardware, license the software, and offer configuration
and tech support to end users for a monthly subscription fee. According to Pijanowski,
Microsoft will make several partner announcements at PDC.
Today, end users can access their online apps and data from servers in Microsoft's
facilities or partners' datacenters. Microsoft's decision to host
Exchange Online and SharePoint Online earlier this year angered many resellers.
The company has a datacenter in Quincy, Wash., and new facilities underway in
San Antonio, Texas; Chicago, Ill.; and West Des Moines, Iowa. It has also announced
plans in March to invest
about $500 million to build a datacenter in Dublin, Ireland.
Microsoft's plans for its cloud platform will take center stage at PDC next
month. In addition to the official unveiling of the new cloud platform, developers
can expect more details about a new programming language for the Oslo software
modeling framework, as well as a fleshed-out strategy for Live Mesh, Microsoft
Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie's vision for data synchronization for consumer
devices and PCs in the cloud.
"This is what keeps Steve Ballmer up at night," Pijanowski said.
"He doesn't want to be the old seller."
Kathleen Richards is the editor of RedDevNews.com and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.