Microsoft is set to attract businesses to use Azure through a “cloud first” partner programme.
At Microsoft's worldwide partner conference, general manager Steven Martin said: “We are committed to helping our partners and customers embrace cloud computing, using a 'cloud-first' approach to all we do, from our partner programmes to our engineering principles to our product innovations.”
To support integration with cloud applications, Microsoft unveiled Windows Azure Active Directory. This supports integration of identities across both Microsoft and third-party SaaS applications. Windows Azure Active Directory synchronises with on-premise Windows Server Active Directory. It is also built into Office 365.
Microsoft has pre-integrated Windows Azure Active Directory with 40 applications, including Box.com, Salesforce.com, Concur, DropBox and Google Apps Gmail. A browser-based user access panel enables users to find the SaaS apps and login using a single sign-on.
The company has also extended the SQL Azure database with a premium version, which it says enables database administrators to reserve dedicated cloud capacity to support mission critical applications.
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Martin urged Microsoft's partners to assist customers who want to integrate Windows Azure infrastructure services, the company's infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platform.
As Computer Weekly has previously reported, demand for cloud computing is pushing up rates for Microsoft consultants.
Over the next year Microsoft hopes to extend the Azure platform by forging closer ties with the on-premise Windows server environment used by most businesses to run server-based applications.
The company is also encouraging third-party developers to build apps and applications hosted on the Azure cloud, made available to users through the Windows Azure store. At the time of writing, the store has few applications, but clearly Microsoft wants to make it a fully fledged marketplace for enterprise apps and applications.
A version of this story also appears on Computer Weekly