Microsoft's Azure cloud drifts in

At its Professional Developer's Conference on Monday, Microsoft announced Windows Azure, its new cloud computing platform and services. The offerings will have an impact upon a number of markets, including hosted telephony services and online video distribution. 

At its heart, Microsoft's Azure is a service running on a "vast number" of machines residing in Microsoft's own data centers. Over the past year, Microsoft has opened up data centers in Quincy,Wash., and San Antonio and is scheduled to open up two more centers in Chicago and Dublin, Ireland. The company said it was putting 10,000 new servers on line every month, with new data centers costing $500,000 each.

By using Microsoft tools, the company claims Azure will make it easier and cheaper for companies to write their own web apps that can rapidly scale to meet demand. Developers will be able to code apps using existing .NET tools and services and test them on a local PC before a general release; a demonstration easily scaled up the number of computing servers available to the app simply by changing a line of XML code.

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) model Microsoft is slowly rolling out with Azure is likely to make phone and hosting companies a wee bit uncomfortable. It allows Microsoft to offer its own hosted applications, be they simple web services or IP telephony and UC offerings, without having to work with a hosting middleman.

However, Microsoft isn't alone in the clouds. is aggressively marketing its EC2 service, including a CDN service; Sylantro also has a deal with Amazon to deliver its IP telephony offerings on Amazon servers. It is only a matter of time before the larger phone companies of the world decide that yes, they too, can offer some cloud.

For more:
- PC Pro coverage of Windows Azure cloud announcement.
- eWeek details Windows Azure services.

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