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Microsoft ‘Cloud OS’ App Platform: “Windows Azure Store Preview; Team Foundation Service Out of Preview; Azure Mobile Services to Support WP8/Windows 8” Announced

At day 2 //BUILD conference in Redmond, Satya Nadella, President of Microsoft’s Server & Tools Business, discussing how Windows Azure is providing the critical backend capabilities developers need to create amazing new apps for Windows and Windows Phone — announced that the Visual Studio Team Foundation Service “is now out of Preview!”

“With this change, your accounts are now accessible at http://<youraccountname>.visualstudio.com. The old tfspreview.com domain will continue to work for the foreseeable future, but you should plan on starting to use the new URL,” micorosoft stated.

Adding, “you’ll need to type the full URL (ex: https://aaronbjork.visualstudio.com) of your account into the Add Team Foundation Server dialog in Visual Studio.”

Notice that you need to use https:// as well. Microsoft says, it’ll make this a bit easier with the first VS Update.

You can read about the changes on the new home URL here.

Team Foundation Service out of Preview

Also, announced today is the Preview of the new Windows Azure Store — providing services and data add-ons that extend the core Windows Azure services.

“Devlopers can access and manage the add-ons from inside the Azure Management Portal. The services can make use of the Azure discovery, billing and management capabilities,” Microsoft stated. Following are some of the services/data add-ons listed in the Windows Azure Store:

  • AppDynamics (monitoring and scaling as a service)
  • MongoLab (MongoDB as a service)
  • SendGrid (email delivery as a service)
  • Dun & Bradstreet (business insights)
  • Loqate (worldwide address verification and cleansing service)
  • StrikeIron (phone number verification service, sales and use tax rates)

“We are building some of the most diverse internet-scale workloads in the industry: Skydrive, Office 365, XBOX Live, Bing, Ad Center, Dynamics…the list goes on. All of this has pushed us to reimagine the Windows backend, to re-examine the core hardware abstraction at the datacenter and multi-datacenter level, as well as building a new modern application platform. We call this the Cloud OS,” Nadella added.

“What the Cloud OS means to the developers at Build is that regardless of their preferred language, tool or framework, Windows Azure is the most complete platform to build on,” he said.

As part of making the Cloud OS to be the platform any developer will want to build on–Microsoft also announced “a series of updates for Windows Azure, including Web Site language support for .NET Framework 4.5 and Python, making this service even more open for developers.”

Windows Azure Mobile Services now include support for Windows Phone 8, in addition to Windows 8 on which third-party apps depends.

Also, Halo 4 releasing next week, Microsoft says, “with the flexible and on-demand architecture of Windows Azure, each Halo 4 developer had their own development environment, which allowed development and testing to run in parallel.”

With the release “2 million concurrent players will experience the power of Windows Azure, which is used to power the entire multi-player experience,” Microsoft added.

Windows Azure Store Preview

Also, available today is the Entity Framework (EF) 6 Alpha 1 on NuGet. EF6 Alpha includes the following new features and changes:

  • Async Query and Save – EF6 now supports the task-based asynchronous patterns that were introduced in .NET 4.5.
  • Custom Code First Conventions – You can now write custom conventions for Code First to help avoid repetitive configuration. “We provide a simple API for lightweight conventions as well as some more complex building blocks to allow you to author more complicated conventions,” Microsoft said.
  • Multi-Tenant Migrations – In previous versions of EF you were limited to one Code First model per database when using Migrations, this limitation is now removed.
  • Configurable Migrations History Table – Some database providers require the appropriate data types etc. to be specified for the Migrations History table to work correctly.
  • Code-Based Configuration – Configuration has traditionally been specified in a config file, EF6 also gives you the option of performing configuration in code.
  • Dependency Resolution – EF now supports the Service Locator pattern and we’ve factored out some pieces of functionality that can be replaced with custom implementations.
  • Updated Provider Model – In previous versions of EF some of the core components were a part of the .NET Framework. “In EF6 we’ve moved all these components into our NuGet package, allowing us to develop and deliver more features in a shorter time frame. This move required some changes to our provider model,” the company said.
  • Enums, Spatial and Better Performance on .NET 4.0 – “By moving the core components that used to be in the .NET Framework into the EF NuGet package we are now able to offer enum support, spatial data types and the performance improvements from EF5 on .NET 4.0,” Microsoft added.

Also, announced today–“Lockheed Martin and Microsoft received a $9.8 million contract to migrate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Microsoft Office 365, a cloud-based collaboration and communication service.”

“This transition will improve EPA employees’ access to communications and mobility tools and will offer the EPA significant cost savings by reducing the agency’s energy footprint. The new system is expected to save the agency approximately $12 million over the four-year contract period,” Microsoft posted.

Update 11/01:

  • Windows Server 2012 & .NET 4.5 in Cloud Services (web & worker roles) (GA) – Windows Server 2012 is now available as a guest operating system for Cloud Services. In addition, support for applications written with .NET framework 4.5 addd through the new October 2012 SDK.
  • Windows Phone 8 Support (Preview) – a new capability in Windows Azure that makes it incredibly easy to connect your client and mobile applications to a scalable cloud backend.
  • New SDK (GA) – In support of Windows Server 2012 as an option in Cloud Services a new Windows Azure SDK for .NET (October 2012) is released. “Customers will be able run the November 2011, June 2012, and October 2012 SDK’s side by side,” Microsoft said. Also added “Service Management API support for Python developers as well as adding support for Node.js in Windows Azure Mobile Services.” Additional updates include support for caching in Cloud Services, updated VS tooling, and .NET client libraries for Storage and Service Bus. Windows Azure PowerShell has also been updated with new commands, including support for Windows Azure Web Sites.
  • Windows Azure Distributed Caching (GA) – Key features include the ability to scale up to 300+ GB of cached data, and Memcache protocol support that enables memcache based apps to run in Windows Azure without a code change.

Microsoft also talked about Windows Azure Accelerator program, for which Microsoft and its partner TechStars had picked 10 startup companies to participate in this program.

“The 10 startups are now working in Microsoft-provided buildings in the Seattle area to develop their products, which will gain free access to Windows Azure cloud-based services, along with other tools and mentoring from Microsoft team members. In January, the 10 startups will pitch their final product demos to angel investors in hoping of gaining funding,” Microsoft revealed.

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