Build: Microsoft Azure embraces outside technologies

Microsoft has open-sourced its new C# compiler and Azure now incorporates the open source Chef and Puppet configuration managers

By , IDG News Service |  Cloud Computing

Typically, when developers write code for a Web application in Visual Studio, they can check to see if it runs correctly by running it in a browser.

Now, using a technology known as Browser Link, developers can edit the source code directly in the browser. Browser Link will write the changes back to the source code file in Visual Studio. If a file such as a related style sheet is not open, Visual Studio can open the file and make the change as well.

Browser Link works on "any open browser," in Microsoft's words; the company named Google Chrome and Firefox, in addition to Internet Explorer.

In addition to open-sourcing C#, Microsoft has also started an organization, called the .Net Foundation, to manage additional open source .Net projects from Microsoft and others.

The company also announced the general availability of Visual Studio Online, a hosted version of the IDE that works within Azure and is incorporated into Microsoft Team Foundation Service to enable rapid DevOps-styled development.

On the cloud side of operations, Azure has incorporated two of the industry's leading open source configuration management tools, Chef and Puppet. Users can deploy these technologies to quickly boot up, configure or reconfigure large numbers of virtual machines.

Microsoft has also redesigned the Azure portal, giving it a much more flexible interface. It builds on the Windows Tile design, allowing users to add their own tiles that can display live information, such as metrics of how well the user's operations are performing. One tile even keeps a tally of the bill that the user has accumulated in the current billing cycle, which should help eliminate any surprises when the monthly payment comes due, Guthrie noted.

Guthrie touted a wide range of other Azure improvements and new features as well.

Azure now offers staging support. This feature allows a Web developer to set up a working copy of an application that is about to go live in a full production setting, for final testing. This eliminates the need to do the final test on the live production version of the application.

Also new with Azure is Traffic Management Server, a service that can route application requests to the copy of a distributed application that is closest to the requester's geographic origin, potentially lowering latency times for users.

Microsoft has taken further steps in integrating its Active Directory (AD) directory services into Azure.

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