Live blog: Ozzie talks Azure and more

Microsoft's chief software architect kicks off the company's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles by announcing the formal launch of the cloud-based OS.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
6 min read

Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, speaking Tuesday at the company's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles. Ina Fried/CNET

LOS ANGELES--Microsoft wants you to join it in the cloud.

That's the company's message Tuesday from its Professional Developers Conference here, where Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie gave the opening keynote address.

Ozzie announced plans for the formal launch of Windows Azure, the cloud-based operating system that lets developers write programs that run on servers in Microsoft's data centers. It will be in production for all users starting January 1, though a few customers will enter production now, Ozzie said.

In other news, Microsoft announced a technology preview of a new data service, code-named Dallas, that lets Azure customers access various commercial and public data sets. Early partners include NASA, the Associated Press, and InfoUSA.

Microsoft also announced another of its city-based code names. Sydney is a security mechanism that lets businesses exchange data between their servers and the Azure cloud. Entering testing next year, Sydney should allow a local application to talk to a cloud application. It will help businesses that want to run most of an application in Microsoft's data center, but that want to keep some sensitive parts running on their own servers.

Here's our live coverage of Ozzie's talk:

8:20 a.m. PST: There's a rap song playing with lyrics that involve floppy discs and spreadsheets. It may be a long morning.

8:23 a.m. PST: Please silence all pagers, cell phones and Windows Mobile devices. "They're both off," the reporter next to me quipped of the Windows Mobile phones. I was going to make some joke about the Sidekick, but I think I'll leave it at that.

8:30 a.m. PST: Ozzie takes the stage, noting how Microsoft first laid out its services strategy about four years ago. (That's when Microsoft launched Windows Live and Ozzie sent his services disruption memo).

Ozzie talks about how last year Microsoft announced its actual products for the space, many of which are hitting the market now.

He also notes the potential of Windows 7 to help get consumers to a more modern code base that developers can target.

"Windows 7 has the real potential to sweep through and reinvigorate the currently fragmented installed base," Ozzie said.

8:35 a.m. PST: First mention of "Three screens and a cloud." That's a phrase we're likely to hear a lot. It's Microsoft parlance for the three most important devices--PCs, phones, and TVs, as well as Internet services that connect all of those devices.

Ozzie also promises Microsoft will improve Internet Explorer--delivering the "best Internet browser without compromise."

Ozzie mentions what we'll hear at PDC--but also a few topics that will have to wait a bit.

He said people will have to wait until spring to to hear in detail about updates to Windows Live. He also said Microsoft will use its spring Mix show in Las Vegas to let developers know how to write code for the next generation of Windows phone.

8:38 a.m. PST: Loic LeMeur, founder and CEO of Seesmic, is talking about how that company is using Silverlight to help it get Seesmic onto more devices. Shows a Silverlight prototype of Seesmic's Twitter application. He also announces immediate availability of Seesmic for Windows.

8:45 a.m. PST: Ozzie shifts to Azure.

"It was only one year ago at PDC '08 that we launched Windows Azure...by launching our community technology preview," Ozzie said.

The technology preview will continue through end of the year. Windows Azure will switch to a production service on January 1. During January, the company will validate and test its payment and billing systems. First bills will be for February usage.

Tens of thousands of developers have used Windows Azure, Ozzie said.

8:50 a.m. PST: Ozzie said that Azure will be hosted in pairs of data centers in each region, starting in January.

In the U.S., Azure will run at facilities in Chicago and San Antonio, Texas. In Europe, Microsoft will tap spots in Dublin and Amsterdam, while in Asia, facilities are in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Microsoft is moving to data centers that house servers not in racks, but in self-contained shipping containers. Microsoft brought one of its containers here to the show floor. (For those not here, check out the piece I did when I toured the Chicago facility.)

A handful of Azure customers are going into production starting today, Ozzie said, including Automattic, the maker of WordPress. Founder Matt Mullenweg now on stage.

8:58 a.m. PST: Mullenweg invites up someone from I Can Haz Cheezburger. The "Cheezburger Network" is launching a new Azure-based Web Site--Oddlyspecific.com--a site devoted to funny and interesting signs.

9:04 a.m. PST: Ozzie announces a new Azure subsystem. Code-named Dallas, it's an open catalog and marketplace for data, both public and commercial.

"Dallas might catalyze a whole new wave of remixing and experimentation for developers," Ozzie said. Dallas can be found on Microsoft's Pinpoint site. Early partners include NASA, InfoUSA, and AP Online.

9:10 a.m. PST: Microsoft shows a demo using 3D imagery from the Mars rover using NASA's "Dallas" data feed. So that's what the 3D glasses on our seat were for.

9:14 a.m. PST: U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra joins via satellite to talk about how opening up data can help tap a broader pool of researchers, such as what NASA is doing with the Pathfinder rover data. Anyone who wants to go use the data can go to this Web site, he said.

U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra shows off a new job-finder application--on an iPhone--at Microsoft's developer conference. Ina Fried/CNET

He also shows a career finder application built on government data that can help people find jobs near them. Most interesting is the fact that he is demonstrating the app on an iPhone.

9:20 a.m. PST: Ozzie is summing up, telling people to bet on Microsoft. "When thinking about the experience part of your apps, bet on Windows, bet on Windows 7," Ozzie said. You should also bet on Azure.

"These services are ready for business now," Ozzie said.

Finally, he said, pay attention to all the data that we can now gather.

"Our world and our systems are increasingly wired with sensors, recording tons of data," Ozzie said. But, he said, "this data does no good unless we turn the potential into the kinetic...Let's dream and then let's build."

9:23 a.m. PST: Ozzie is done, handing off to Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools business.

Muglia begins by trying to explain what is generally understood by the cloud.

"We're all learning together, but one thing that has become really clear is the cloud is more than about infrastructure," Muglia said. "It's also about an application model."

9:25 a.m. PST: Bing runs on more than 100,000 servers. That would be too much to manage using standard server management, Muglia said. The human cost would be too high. Instead, it has an "autopilot" management system.

"When things fail, they just go offline," Muglia said.

9:35 a.m. PST: We're off in geekland now. Don Box, a distinguished engineer at Microsoft, and Chris Anderson, a partner architect at Microsoft, have started coding. I'm pretty sure that most of the people who can understand what they are saying are in this auditorium. (And I'm not one of them.)

9:50 a.m. PST: OK, coding time is over. Muglia is back showing various customers including Kelley Blue Book and Domino's Pizza. Domino's says Azure is nifty because it has peak demand on Super Bowl Sunday that is twice that of any other day.

9:55 a.m. PST: Muglia announces Project Sydney, which allows businesses to connect their own servers with services that are running on Azure. Sydney will be in beta next year.

Muglia said Microsoft has been working on Sydney for a while, understanding that businesses are going to continue to run services in-house and need to connect those to the broader cloud.

10:00 a.m. PST: Muglia also is announcing a beta of an application server for Windows Server called AppFabric. The system will be available in beta next year for Azure as well. (AppFabric combines hosting and caching technologies previously code-named Dublin and Velocity, Microsoft said.)

Microsoft also plans to offer Windows Server virtual machine support next year, Muglia said.

10:03 a.m. PST: Microsoft's press release for the Day 1 keynote is out. Among things I haven't mentioned, Microsoft has finalized the code for its Windows Identity Foundation and is announcing the beta of ASP.Net MVC2 (now that's a mouthful).

10:30 a.m. PST: Muglia is wrapping up. Reiterates that Visual Studio 2010 is coming in the first half of next year. An updated version of System Center that helps manage private clouds and helps start to span into hosted and public cloud environments will be in beta next year.

Muglia also clarifies that Azure's second European and both Asian data centers will come on line next year.

"We're investing in this infrastructure all around the world so you don't have to," Muglia says,

Keynote ends.