More tools for developers, better management for businesses. Also, Microsoft goes deeper into open source

SAN FRANCSICO – Microsoft continues to strengthen its Azure cloud service platform for hosting and developing applications, adding new management features so users can better keep track of costs and dozens of other capabilities and tools for developers to create apps.

Also on Thursday at its annual Build conference for developers here the company announced it funneling a number of technologies around its .Net development framework that it has already released to the open source community to a new .Net Foundation.

The announcements are aimed at boosting Microsoft’s “mobile first, cloud first” strategy as it turns away from on-premise solutions.

The company said the foundation will be a forum for commercial and community developers to strengthen the future of the .NET ecosystem by promoting openness, community participation and rapid innovation.

One of Microsoft’s newest donations is a project dubbed Roslyn, a .Net compiler platform for Visual Studio that helps convert C# and Visual Basic libraries into APIs.

The new foundation ”now gives us the flexibility where we can look at suggestions and submissions from developers” on projects Microsoft working and possibly integrate them into our products,” Guthrie said. “It’s going to take .Net to the next level.”

Among the many enhancements for Azure will be a new portal now available in a preview. It includes

Simplified Resource Management through the new Azure Manager. Rather than managing standalone resources such as Microsoft Azure Web Sites, Visual Studio Projects or databases, customers will be able to create, manage and analyze their entire application as a single resource group in a unified, customized experience, Microsoft said.
Azure Manager is being released through the latest Azure SDK;

Integrated billing. Allows developers and IT pros to take control of their costs and optimize their resources. It will show details including a  summary of last three months spending, costs broken down by resource (storage, compute) and a line by line item of expenditure. There will be no more sticker shock, said one Microsoft exec;

Gallery. A  marketplace of free and paid application and services from Microsoft and the open source community to leverage Azure capabilities;

-Visual Studio Online enhancements. These include Team Projects supporting greater agility for application lifecycle management and the lightweight editor code-named “Monaco”  for modifying and committing Web project code changes without leaving Azure. Also included is Application Insights, an analytics solution that collects telemetry data such as availability, performance and usage information to track an application’s health.

Azure is a platform for not only hosting Web sites but also for buying platform and infrastructure as a service offerings. It goes up against Amazon Web Services and IBM’s SoftLayer among others.

While Microsoft boasts that it will soon have 16 regional data centres around the world — including two in China – it doesn’t have any in Canada. That’s not important for companies wanting to use Azure for application development, but it can be a killer for organizations that insist sensitive data must be hosted in Canada.

However in an interview here Mary-Ellen Anderson, vice-president of Microsoft Canada’s developer and platform group, said it didn’t stop CBC-TV from using Azure for streaming media during the Sochi Olympics.

Getting Azure in Canada “is something we’re working hard on,” she added, but couldn’t say when it will happen.

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