Microsoft adds 1,000 businesses to its Azure cloud daily – expands focus on mobile apps

27 Jun 2013

Steven Guggenheimer and John Shewchuk demonstrate apps for Windows 8, including Khan Academy and Foursquare, and developer tools from PayPal, Adobe and Unity, at the Microsoft Build conference in San Francisco, California

More than 1,000 companies a day are signing up to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, the software giant confirmed today as it announced the general availability of Windows Azure Mobile Services and revealed new cloud and app collaborations with Adobe, Box and Foursquare.

At its Build conference in San Francisco, California, attended by more than 6,000 software developers, Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft’s Server & Tools business, said 1,000 new companies a day are signing up to Azure cloud services. He said 50pc of Fortune 500 companies use Azure and there are 3.2m distinct organisations active in Azure.

In a series of presentations that emphasised a more open and collaborative Microsoft – they even used a Mac in one of their demos – Nadella and his colleagues moved the focus from cloud services to cloud mobile services, where using tools like Visual Studio 2013, app developers and system integrators can orchestrate enterprise-level projects from the cloud directly to apps on mobile devices.

Nadella revealed that the amount of storage on the Azure cloud is doubling every two months and the software giant is processing 900,000 storage transactions per second.

The emphasis at day two of Build 2013 was on demonstrating how the Azure cloud ecosystem, Visual Studio, and devices could be combined to enable enterprises to create real-time web pages and apps that result in better efficiencies and potential revenues.

Nadella said Windows Azure has been battle tested and pointed out how Azure hosts 48m Xbox Live subscribers, 299m Skype users, 1m users, 250m SkyDrive accounts, handles 1bn Bing notifications and has facilitated 1.5bn games of Halo.

Nadella said there are 130,00 active web applications today using Azure, including organisations like Heineken and Toyota. Aviva, for example, has built a mobile app that provides users with real-time insurance quotes based on driving habits.

He said building multi-device, multi-screen, cloud-connected experiences and Azure Mobile Services signifies the coming together of cloud scale deployments with enterprise grade development.

The new Microsoft – openness and heterogeneity

The new tools in Visual Studio for example, enable enterprises to write apps that can be published onto Android, iOS and Windows devices.

“Developers are increasingly demanding a flexible, comprehensive platform that helps them build and manage apps in a cloud – and in a mobile-driven world,” Nadella said. “To meet these demands, Microsoft has been doubling down on Windows Azure. Nearly 1,000 new businesses are betting on Windows Azure daily, and as momentum for Azure grows, so too does the developer opportunity to build applications that power modern businesses.”

Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of Box, took to the stage at Build to point out how he believes the combination of app development via cloud and enterprise-grade system integration could be good for entrepreneurs.

“It’s really exciting to see an all-new Microsoft support openness and heterogeneity. In the past, we wouldn’t have seen a developer preview demonstrated on a Mac and for a second I thought (Microsoft chairman) Bill Gates himself would come down from the ceiling.

“I think this is going to be great for developers and start-ups,” Levie continued. “Frictions. Think about how the enterprise software industry for decades meant you had to build massive competency for managing services and software. There was so much friction. Any new problem had to have the same amount of technology. But now things like getting the identity and the technology to talk to each other means that any business anywhere in the world can instantly and on-demand light up new tools.

“There will be more innovation because there is less friction,” Levie predicted. “Start-ups can be more competitive and build more solutions. Think about the US$290m spent every year on on-premise software; now all of that can move to the cloud.”

Also launched today was Windows Azure BizTalk Services, which allows executives to link their enterprise systems with software as a service (SaaS) offerings.

Joining the dots on how Microsoft’s new Azure development tools enable apps that can filter across smartphone, tablet and notebook devices, Microsoft’s chief evangelist Steven Guggenheimer showed new cloud-based apps from Khan Academy and Adobe that use Bing as a platform to include information within apps.

He also revealed that a new tablet app developed by Foursquare will be coming to Windows 8 first.

“(Foursquare CEO) Denis Crowley and his team did a phenomenal job and are coming to Windows 8 first. The key is that when you build for these devices your apps will work across all devices.

“We have device drivers and sensors and now we can create scenarios that are unprecedented and allow app developers to put in solutions using advances in NFC and Wi-Fi, for example. We are going to continue to innovate,” Guggenheimer said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years