Microsoft launches Windows Azure and supporting channel strategy

As part of its software plus services strategy, Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) has announced the commercial availability of its Windows Azure cloud platform, in addition to a new online marketplace and information and brokerage service for its developer partners.

To coincide with its annual Professional Developers Conference, Microsoft Canada held a local roundtable event for the media in Toronto on Tuesday. Barnaby Jeans, an audience marketing manager at Microsoft Canada, said the company was using the conference to announce the availability of its Windows Azure and SQL Azure platforms. The Azure hosted platform lets users roll out applications in an on-demand fashion, using Microsoft’s cloud services.

“SQL Azure provides users with transactional, relational data storage for applications residing in a SQL environment,” Jeans said. “This provides users with scalability, redundancy and high availability.”

Eric Dorgelo, vice-president of product development at Vancouver-based Microsoft partner Sitemasher Corp. said Windows Azure has played an integral part in helping the company to develop a cloud-based information management platform.

“We’ve been working closely with Microsoft to deploy (our) Sitemasher (solution) onto the Azure cloud,” Dorgelo said. “This gives us a hosting environment that’s very elastic so that we can scale up or down depending on customer demands.”

Jeans said to promote Windows Azure, the platform is free to users for the next three months, up until Feb. 1, 2010, when the billing period will begin.

Microsoft also announced Pinpoint, an online marketplace to help Microsoft partners them market and sell their applications. This offering is currently in its Community Technology Preview (CTP) and Jeans said partners can now roll out applications for free on it until February.

Eventually, Jeans said Microsoft will also introduce customer relationship management, billing and transactional capabilities on Pinpoint so partners and customers can more quickly and easily do business together. Right now, Pinpoint is targeted primarily at enterprise clients but Microsoft plans to extend this offering to the mid-market space too.

“Pinpoint is a marketplace that lets other developers find your system,” Dorgelo said. “This helps us get visibility in the marketplace where we wouldn’t otherwise get it.”

Another offering that’s also in CTP is a service codenamed “Dallas.” Built on the Azure platform, its an information and brokerage service that allows developers and end-users to access commercial and reference data sets and other related content, on any platform. Developers can then plug these data streams directly into their applications, Jeans said. Currently Microsoft has data from the Associated Press, ESRI, NASA, Weather Central, and more. Since the service is in CTP, it’s currently free to use, Jeans added.

“Dallas provides one central location where developers can plug into these data sets and make use of them within their applications,” he said.

In other related news, Microsoft also announced the release of the public betas of its Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft Vision 2010, Microsoft Project 2010, Microsoft Office Mobile 2010 and its Office Web Apps for business customers.

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
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