At this morning's Professional Developers Conference (PDC), Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie said that the company's Windows Azure cloud computing platform will become a production server on January 1. This platform, which was announced at the PDC conference last year, will be free until Feb. 1, Ozzie said.

The big news here was support for more tools. Ozzie talked about how Azure developers could now use the Zend framework, MySQL, Java, PHP, and Eclipse in addition to Microsoft tools like .Net; and showed off a new service called "Dallas" for exposing and sharing data.

This keynote was focused on the back end - servers, tools, and cloud computing, though he also talked about the Windows platform as a whole. Ozzie talked about how Windows Azure would look just like Windows Server to .NET developers. He talked how Windows Server and Windows Azure both were manageable through Microsoft System Center; and how developers could use windows services across their own servers, Microsoft's servers, and services offered by partners.

He said developers could choose the location for their storage, including Chicago and San Antonio in North America, Dublin, Amsterdam, Singapore, and Hong Kong. All of these are built on a modular data center model. He said that Azure storage could now be assigned as NTFS volume; and said that SQL Azure has now been designed as a true service in a cloud, with automatic management , replication, and disaster recover. He said that Azure would work unmodified against a variety of Microsoft technologies, ranging from ODBC to Excel.

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