Now that Mix09 is talking place we have a lot of nice announcements from Microsoft. I want to focus this post on the new Azure features, SDK and Visual Studio Tools that have been released a few hours ago.
For those who don’t know, Windows Azure is the Microsoft’s cloud operating system. It is an operating system that runs in the cloud and only in MS’ data centers so don’t bother asking how can you install this new OS because there is no way you can do it. If you want more details about cloud computing and Windows Azure join my live presentation on GeekMeet Brasov on March 28 (it’s a presentation in Romanian).
Let’s see what new goodies are in the March release:
First of all there is support for FastCGI which allows developers to deploy and run web applications written with 3rd party programming languages such as PHP. This provides developers using non-Microsoft languages the ability to take advantage of scalability on Windows Azure. Also the IIS URL Rewrite Module has been enabled. URL rewriting, a feature often used by FastCGI developers, enables the creation of URLs that are easier for users to remember and easier for search engines to find. The Visual Studio Tools for Windows Azure includes a FastCGI Web Role that creates a Web Application project tailored to make it easier to configure, run and package a FastCGI application.
Geo-location provides developers with the ability to specify a location for their applications and data to build responsive services with lower network latency as well as the capability to meet location-based regulatory and legal requirements. Until now there were Azure data centers only in the north western United States but now you can also choose the data centers in south. Some officials from Microsoft said that “Going forward, we plan on expanding our presence to more locations, especially outside the U.S”.
One of the great things about Windows Azure is that it handles the deployment, monitoring, and management of your service so that you have more time to focus on the business logic. Until recently, realizing these benefits meant your code had to run under Windows Azure partial trust, a code access security (CAS) level which locks down certain .NET functionality. Windows Azure now offers the option of running the code in your Web and worker roles under full trust. This unlocks a number of compelling scenarios such as:
- Invoking non-.NET Code: Many developers have existing investments in native code or may choose to use native code for some specialized tasks. .NET full trust makes it possible to use native code via spawning processes or Platform Invoke (P/Invoke).
- Using .NET Libraries that Require Full Trust: Certain .NET libraries, including libraries in the .NET Services SDK, require full trust and can now be used in Windows Azure.
- Inter-process Communication via Named Pipes: If you application spawns processes, you can communicate among them via named pipes.
However you must be aware that the Full Trust is not really Full Trust :) There are some obvious limitations like writing to registry and writing to the file system. These limitation might not be that obvious when programming against the local development environment.
Least but not last, even though it was not officially announced, I think there are plenty of bug fixes and other nice things.
The SDK and Tools for Visual Studio can be downloaded from the following links:
Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio (March 2009 CTP) – now include the SDK
Windows Azure Software Development Kit (March 2009 CTP) – if you don’t need the Visual Studio Tools