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Microsoft's Azure cloud plan favors Java

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PDC 2010 PDC is a Microsoft event, right? And .NET is a Microsoft architecture? Microsoft built C# and the Common Language Runtime (CLR) to kill Java, yeah? And they premiered C# and the CLR with .NET at the Professional Developers' Conference in 2000.

So why is Microsoft at PDC ten years later talking about making Java a first-class citizen on Windows Azure?

The enterprise.

Doug Hauger, general manager of the cloud infrastructure services product management group, told The Reg that Azure has seen a surprisingly huge amount of adoption by its enterprise customers. They now want their server-side Java Enterprise Edition apps to work better on Azure. People are testing data sets on Azure or extending existing data and apps to the cloud.

Better? But Microsoft has been telling us for more than a year that Java already runs on Azure, like PHP and Ruby, as part of an attempt to convince us that a cloudy Microsoft is an open Microsoft.

"Better" means more than just running your Java Virtual machine. It means improving its performance and providing better Eclipse tooling and client libraries for Widows Azure.

But just how far will Microsoft go in making Java a first-class citizen?

Based on the Azure roadmap server and tools president Bob Muglia laid out Thursday at PDC, there's plenty of scope for Java to tap Azure's growing and storage power.

Changes are planned to Azure's networking, management, media, caching, and security that fill gaps in the next year. Microsoft will deliver new capabilities and add features that help simplify the tasks that developers are struggling to achieve on their own.

You'll get IP-based network connectivity between on-premises and cloud-based apps following a Community Technology Preview (CTP) by the end of this year. Later this year, full support for Internet Information Services (IIS) will be added, so you won't have to spin up multiple instances of ISS. Instead, you'll be able to host multiple sites on the server. Applications are getting a boost with the addition of Dynamic Content Caching in 2011

Azure users will be able to secure the content they deliver using SSL/TLS in 2011.

Azure's SQL Azure relational database service is also getting a boost with reporting and analytics. SQL Azure Reporting – which will let you embed reports from Word and Excel and add PDFs to Windows Azure applications – will be available as a CTP by the end of this year and will hit generally available in the first half of 2010. SQL Azure Data Sync, adding geo-location to SQL Azure data and the ability to synchronize with cloud and mobile apps, is planned for the end of 2010 with release in the first half of 2011.

Database Manager for SQL Azure, web-based database management and querying for SQL Azure, will be delivered by the end of this year.

Microsoft is also making it easier to move existing onsite apps to Azure. Muglia announced a beta of the Virtual Machine Role for Windows Server 2008 R2 that's due by the end of this year. Server Application Virtualization will be released as a CTP before the end of this year and delivered as final code in the second half of next year.

Java – enterprise Java especially – has been largely bypassed in the apps voortrek into the cloud. Attention has gone on web-friendly and more fashionable dynamic languages, like PHP or Ruby.

Only in June did somebody finally step up to put Java in the cloud: Salesforce and VMware's Spring said they would build VMforce, for hosting Spring- and Tomcat-based Java applications on the Force.com service.

Other languages are running on top of services like Amazon. Heroku hosts Ruby apps with its own monitoring and pricing on top of the bookseller's cloud.

Amazon this week upped the competitive pressure by cutting the price for the smallest computer and storage instance on its cloud from $0.02 to free. At PDC, Microsoft introduced its smallest instance - the Extra Small Windows Azure Instance that's a quarter of the bandwidth, processing and cache of its previous smallest option. Extra Small is priced $0.05 per compute hour.

Are Microsoft and Amazon in a price war? Not according to Hauger, who says the two aren't comparable. Azure already offers much more and will deliver more in 2011 - platform capabilities such as CDN and IP connection to on-site apps, he said.

These are also the kinds of things Java will experience as a first-class citizen running on top of Azure. "Java will benefit from everything we are doing there as long as we make Java the first class platform. It's a huge opportunity for us," Hauger said.

But this sounds like a JVM play, and Java frameworks such as Spring will remain second-class citizens - at least for now. "We're not sure what we want to say on that," Hauger said. ®

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