Going ‘Cloud First’ with Windows Azure

There’s no doubt that the cloud is providing tremendous opportunity to our partners, with businesses forecast to spend $98 billion on public cloud services by 2016 worldwide, according to IDC. Today at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston, we’re excited to connect with our partners to talk about new ways they can seize this opportunity to help their customers thrive. We are committed to helping our partners and customers embrace cloud computing, using a “cloud-first” approach to all we do, from our partner programs to our engineering principles to our product innovations.

Windows Azure is a key ingredient of this approach, and today we’re highlighting a number of ways for partners to integrate with the cloud through new offerings for both platform and infrastructure services.

First, we’re pleased to announce that new application access enhancements for Windows Azure Active Directory are now available in Preview at no additional cost.   These new enhancements enable integration of identities across both Microsoft and third-party SaaS applications, making it super easy for users to get their work done without having to remember individual user ids and passwords for each online app.  You don’t need to recreate all of your corporate identities; you can easily synch the on-premise Active Directory with Windows Azure Active Directory and be up and running in no time.  If you are running Office 365 you are already running an Azure cloud directory!

 Here are some of the key capabilities you’ll find in the Preview:

  • Seamlessly enable single sign-on for many popular pre-integrated cloud apps
  • Add and remove identities from the top SaaS apps such as Office365, Box, Salesforce and others using the Azure Management Portal
  • Report on unusual application access patterns using predefined security reports
  • Launch assigned apps from a single web page called the Access Panel.

Windows Azure Active Directory provides unmatched integration and global scale. There isn’t another cloud provider in the market that delivers the level of identity integration across platform and infrastructure services, third party SaaS apps, and on-premise directories via a single identity store. We’ll continue to innovate in this space in the coming months including more pre-integrated apps so keep an eye out for future updates.   For a deeper dive on the new enhancements read Alex’s blog post.

To further advance Windows Azure’s platform services for business-critical applications in the cloud, we are excited to announce a new Premium offer for Windows Azure SQL Database.  Available via a limited preview in a few weeks, the Premium offer will help deliver greater performance for cloud applications by dedicating a fixed amount of reserved capacity for a database including its built-in secondary replicas.

At our Build developer conference just a few weeks ago we introduced a new investments in monitoring, alerting and autoscale.  Starting today, you can also use autoscale with Windows Azure Mobile Services Standard and Premium tiers, enabling you to automatically scale your mobile applications based on demand. There is no additional cost for this feature while in preview. Check it out on the Mobile Services page.  

Also at Build we shared that SQL Server 2014 and Windows Server 2012 R2 preview images are ready for use with Windows Azure Infrastructure Services.  Today we are also including the Windows HPC Pack to this list of supported workloads. Whether you are testing the latest parallel algorithm you have written for that risk modeling app or need infrastructure to offload your periodic batch processing jobs, you can simply deploy Windows HPC Pack in Azure and let Windows Azure do the heavy lifting for you.

In addition to building great products and services just about everything that we do at Microsoft involves our deep partner ecosystem and we’re thankful for the many great companies that we’ve had the opportunity to integrate with over the years across the many products we produce, both on premises and in the cloud.  Let’s take a closer look at the opportunities that partners have to integrate with Windows Azure.

If you are a solution integrator there are some great opportunities to help customers and the cloud opens many new opportunities.  Customers everywhere are evaluating how the cloud can help them to get ahead of their competition, innovate more quickly, and scale globally all while benefiting from cloud economics.  Here are a few ways that you can work with your customers right now.

  • Assist customers with their strategy for integrating their existing on premises identities with the new opportunities that the cloud brings to the market for accessing Saas Apps.  Help them to design, integrate and operationalize the new world of identity and access management.
  • Assist customers with their strategy to integrate Windows Azure Infrastructure Services for development and test scenarios, migrating apps to take advantage of cloud scale and to integrate the cloud with on-premises infrastructure.

For example, Microsoft Partner Skyline Technologies is moving their business forward with new service offerings based on Microsoft’s cloud services and they recently helped Trek to take their business to the next level using Azure.

“Microsoft’s Azure and Cloud offerings have resulted in two new practice areas for Skyline – Azure Services and Office 365. These new services have created better alignment with our customers by allowing us to develop cloud strategies that provide holistic solutions while reducing cost and time to market.” – Kenny Young – Director, Cloud Computing & Development at Skyline Technologies

If you’re an ISV, Windows Azure provides you with a global cloud platform for developing your apps and it’s available at your fingertips.  You can take your app from local to global in no time.  CaptiveLogix is taking advantage of cloud innovation to expand their business and help their customers develop new applications. 

“Windows Azure has allowed CaptiveLogix to grow our business by providing us a platform to incubate customers and deliver proof of concepts on Azure Infrastructure Services, while also offering the full elasticity of Windows Azure platform services for new applications and systems integrations. We are in a place where cloud has quickly become a viable option for most organizations and Azure has positioned CaptiveLogix well to offer custom solutions that meet the needs of customers today and into the foreseeable future.  With a clear roadmap and access to pre-release technology we are able to continually offer our customers growth opportunities.” Tim Fernandes, CaptiveLogix

Partners also have a great opportunity to integrate with the Windows Azure Store to raise visibility to the solutions you’ve built on the platform as well as an additional channel for monetizing your offerings.

These partners see the opportunity, innovation and new capabilities the cloud can offer.  They are working to evolve their businesses, are helping customers on the journey to the cloud and are seeing tremendous opportunity ahead of them.  But don’t take it from us, try Windows Azure for yourself and see how you can help to move your business and customers forward. 

Steven