This preview is targeted at developers and includes an API that supports REST, a C# object model and Python. The integration capabilities are called Batch Apps and come from GreenButton, a company Microsoft acquired in May.
Over the next months, Microsoft will be adding additional features including application life-cycle management, in-depth monitoring, role-based access for submitting jobs and service management, custom images and Linux. The company is also integrating the Batch Apps management interface with the new Azure portal.
"Microsoft is catching up with Amazon on the cloud services layer. Azure Batch is just one good example," said René Büst, senior analyst and cloud practice lead at Crisp Research.
Automation, on the other hand, is about making Microsoft's cloud more management friendly. It's a significant product for Microsoft, because as enterprises move more applications to the cloud, effective management will become increasingly important.
The goal with the generally available Automation is to save time and money by automating frequent, time-consuming and error-prone cloud management tasks, according to Microsoft. This is done using Windows PowerShell workflows — so-called runbooks — to create, deploy, maintain and monitor of Azure resources.
To help users get started, Microsoft has posted some tutorials on the Automation website.
Engine Yard's platform-as-a-service is one of the third-party tools that Microsoft's Automation will compete with, according to Ried. It automates the configuration, deployment and ongoing maintenance of cloud-based applications. It has been available on Amazon's Marketplace for almost three years.
But even if Engine Yard competes with Automation, the company's platform is also available on Microsoft's Azure Marketplace, which was also announced on Tuesday.
To make Azure more successful, Microsoft has depended on third-party tools and applications, as well as its own offerings. To help that happen, the company has opened Azure Marketplace. The only surprise here is that Microsoft hadn't done it before.
Organizations can buy and deploy products that either run on or integrate with Azure without much hassle, Microsoft promises. On Tuesday morning, there were 3,002 products to choose between from companies such as SAP, Cloudera, DataStax, CommVault, Veeam and Trend Micro.
Azure Marketplace will have some tough competition, including similar, already existing, offerings from Amazon, IBM, Oracle and Rackspace.
Microsoft's announcements at TechEd weren't just about Azure. The company also opened up Office 365 to third-party developers with the help APIs that let other companies add features and capabilities to the online productivity service.
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