Microsoft Bringing Skype to Improved Windows Azure

Microsoft on Thursday announced its plan to host the Skype VoIP service on its Windows Azure cloud platform, which will be getting auto-scaling and single sign-on enhancements.

Microsoft demonstrated the new Windows Azure capabilities on Thursday at the Build conference in San Francisco. Corporate Vice President for Windows Azure Scott Guthrie disclosed the plan to move Skype off of its own servers onto Windows Azure to showcase the platform's forthcoming auto-scaling feature. The idea, according to Guthrie, is that Skype's need for capacity ebbs and flows, and the ability to get dynamic compute and storage will serve Skype well.

While Windows Azure has always enabled customers to scale up and scale down their apps, it required them to write custom scripts in order to enable that capability, Guthrie said. Moving the Skype service to Windows Azure is a good test case for the auto-scaling capability. By moving to Windows Azure, Skype can scale to the capacity it requires as fluctuations in usage change, he noted.

"We're going to make this a lot easier by baking in auto-scale capability directly into Windows Azure," Guthrie said during the keynote presentation. "This is going to make it trivially easy for anyone to start taking advantage of this kind of dynamic scale environment and yield the same cost basis."

The auto-scaling feature is now available in preview for those using Windows Azure Web Sites, Cloud Services and Virtual Machines. A menu of other services, including availability, monitoring and alerting, are also available. Only alerts and monitoring are in preview for Windows Azure Mobile Services.

Other enhancements Microsoft has planned for Windows Azure include support for availability, monitoring and alerting. The improved Windows Azure features are available for preview now. The company has not set or disclosed a planned release date for general availability.

Guthrie also demonstrated how Microsoft will at some point let SaaS providers and ISVs authenticate to their applications via Windows Azure Active Directory. In a demonstration, he showed how they can integrate existing enterprise security credentials, having single sign-on within the application.

"This makes it really, really easy for you now to build your own custom applications, host them in the cloud and enable enterprise security throughout," he said.

In addition, Guthrie previewed how Windows Azure Active Directory will also make it easier for enterprises to integrate existing SaaS-based apps and have the same type of single sign-on support with Active Directory.

The single sign-on preview was just a demo. Microsoft didn't release a beta or preview for the Windows Azure Active Directory improvements. The company will disclose more details in the coming weeks, according to a company spokesperson.

Microsoft also announced the release of several Windows Azure features that were in preview, including Windows Azure Mobile Services and Windows Azure Web Sites. Windows Azure Web Sites, as the name implies, is aimed at letting developers build and host Web sites. Windows Azure Mobile Services is designed for developers who want to build apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone that are cloud-enabled.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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