Microsoft Announces Windows Azure Media Services

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Microsoft definitely needs to give its cloud network - Windows Azure - a kick in the pants. If it wants to compete with the likes of Google's and other cloud businesses, it's going to have to step up its game. Microsoft announced its solution this morning - Windows Azure Media Services.

Microsoft says the new service is exactly as it sounds. It will be a collection of various media services that will all be accessible via the cloud. Those media services according to the official page are encoding and format conversion, content protection, on-demand streaming and live streaming. This content can be delivered to everything from desktops and laptops to game consoles and tablets.

Windows Azure Media Services is held up by three pillars that define the platform - partner-extensible, richly programmable and automatically scalable. These three features are what Microsoft hopes will define Media Services and tempt users away from the other already established services.

The first pillar, partner-extensible, means that the Media Services platform is open to many partners and their components. It provides a "common interface for all media processing elements" so that any third-party component can be integrated with little to no hassle. The other big advantage is that any third-party component can be made to work with any other component in the system which makes compatibility the name of the game in the Media Services platform.

The next pillar, richly programmable, has the Media Services team crafting a wide array of REST-based APIs alongside a .NET client library. This will give developers a lot of choice when building media workflows. It also ties into the first feature by powering the software that makes all the components seamlessly work together. The other big feature is that developers can "programmatically automate workflow management," so developers can focus on building customer services that run on top of everything.

The final pillar, automatically scalable, is what Microsoft feels will set them apart from competing services. Media Services can be scaled to accomodate any workflow regardless of size. The system uses a "advanced SLA scheduling mechanism" and "access to an infinitely scalable set of cloud resources" to provide the Media Services platform to any project whether it be corporate or personal.

This is a big step for Microsoft, but only time will tell if it's ultimately successful for them in the end. Having an automatically scalable system is pretty exciting and one that I think would, as Microsoft claims, "revolutionize the way the world thinks about media." It all depends on Microsoft's own ability to market Windows Azure though. Besides corporations and government entities who use Azure, does the average Joe actually know or care?

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