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VSLive! Opening Keynote Highlights Fast-Moving Windows Azure Platform

The Visual Studio Live! conference in Las Vegas kicked off Tuesday morning with a keynote address focused on Windows Azure application development by Microsoft Senior Director of Developer and Platform Evangelism James Conard.

While the conference is aligned around a number of core themes, including cross-platform mobile and Windows 8 app development, Conard's talk hit hard on the compelling features of Windows Azure.

Windows Azure has seen significant updates over the past several months, including a March update for Windows Azure Mobile Services that added support for HTML and JavaScript clients and Cross Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) to support and manage AJAX requests from across multiple domains. During his keynote, Conard showed off the streamlined Windows Azure Management Portal and guided attendees through creating, configuring and monitoring Windows Azure applications.

Among other things, Conard showed off Windows Azure's new endpoint monitoring capabilities, noting that Microsoft just added the functionality as part of the March update last week. He also discussed how Microsoft now allows developers to synchronize content from Dropbox folders, in addition to supporting Visual Studio, GitHub, FTP and other repositories.

"We've been on an amazing march with Azure for the last few months," Conard said in an interview, noting that Azure Mobile Services was introduced in August 2012. That release supported Windows Store and Windows Phone 8 applications. Microsoft updated Azure Mobile Services with support for iOS in October, followed by Android support about a month ago. JavaScript and HTML client support was added in the most recent March update.

Conard pointed out that Windows Azure touches a wide range of applications and scenarios, from Web-based apps to complex, multi-tier applications. During his presentation, he walked attendees through the process of configuring and deploying Windows Azure applications, highlighting the streamlined, Web-based Windows Azure UI and rich dashboard functionality.

Conard said that the overarching theme of his keynote was flexibility.

"This is a shift that is occurring across virtually every type of customer that we talk with. From the larger enterprises to mobile application developers that are one- or two-man shops -- just the transformation of using the cloud in different ways is happening across the board," Conard said. "[Developers benefit from] the flexibility we are exposing with Windows Azure and the ability with that to use the frameworks, languages and tools of Visual Studio and .NET, in the case of this group of developers, with Windows Azure."

The rapid-fire feature updates do pose a challenge of sorts for Conard, who says the Azure group is committed to a continuous-services model.

"What's really important for developers, and also quite difficult for developers to get used to today, is just the pace of innovation that is being exposed through the cloud, where literally next week you go and take a look at Azure and there is a new feature or new services, like Android support for Azure Mobile Services," Conard said. "We are on a pace of continuous services and so what we should expect are more and more capabilities being exposed on Azure, and that's across the board."

Posted by Michael Desmond on 03/26/2013