October 28, 2010, 2:49 PM — Microsoft bolstered Windows Azure with several new capabilities today, including the ability to run Windows Server instances on Azure, theoretically making applications portable between the data center and Microsoft cloud platform.
New capabilities include the Windows Azure Virtual Machine Role and Server Application Virtualization, Microsoft announced at the Professional Developers Conference at its corporate headquarters in Redmond, Wash. (See also Steve Ballmer is "pumped up!" about smart devices)
"Windows Azure Virtual Machine Role gives customers the ability to run an instance of Windows Server 2008 R2 running in Microsoft's cloud, making it easier for developers to move applications to the cloud," Microsoft said. "Server Application Virtualization gives developers the ability to transfer application images to Windows Azure, harnessing the underlying management capabilities of the platform."
The moves put Windows Azure on more of a par with Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud. Microsoft had earlier promised the ability to run so-called "bare-metal VMs," similarly to how Amazon offers a variety of Windows and Linux virtual machine instances. Microsoft's announcement today delivers on that promise.
The cloud computing market is currently divided between infrastructure-as-a-service offerings like EC2, which provide raw access to virtual machine instances, and platform-as-a-service offerings like Azure, which provide abstracted tools to developers but less access to the underlying infrastructure.