Microsoft’s Data as a Service offering, code-named Dallas, on tap

Microsoft’s latest cloud computing onslaught is a nascent “Data as a Service” offering launched this week at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.

From his keynote perch, Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie urged attendees to keep information in mind when they develop cloud computing apps. Microsoft’s proposed data service, code-named Dallas, aggregates reams of public data and will make it available by subscription so that it can be parsed, reconfigured and displayed as needed and incorporated in other applications.

Microsoft watchers could be forgiven if they view this through Microsoft’s Google eyes. Google, a pioneer in cloud computing, made its name and fortune indexing and surfacing all sorts of data using an ad-based model that makes it available free to consumers. Dallas will be a subscription service, according to Ozzie.

Dallas was built on Azure and SQL Azure to be an “open catalog and marketplace of public and commercial data,” Ozzie said.

“Our world is increasingly wired with sensors that are recording unimaginable volumes of data, not only on us and what we do but on the physical world around us, healthcare, government, the environment,” he said.

“That data does no good unless we turn the potential into the kinetic — into apps and solutions wrapped around that data. Weave together that public domain content with your own content,” Ozzie said.

With a common API granting access to data across a number of providers, Dallas could require less developer effort to generate enterprise mashups, said Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. Such ad hoc data integrations often rely on HTTP, but can require considerable data access coding to tie together, he said.

The availability of good data at low cost would be a boon to anyone building e-commerce applications, added Carl Mazzanti, president of eMazzanti Technologies, a Hoboken, N.J.-based Microsoft partner. “Any time you can get good data delivered to you that is inexpensive and that you don’t have to maintain could be very useful,” he added.

What looks like a way to mine and harness data may seem like a boon to vendors, but a big brother nightmare to others.

Ozzie reiterated the Azure timeline already public on Microsoft Blogs and that the free Azure community technology preview (CTP) will continue through year’s end. Microsoft will test out reliability and payment systems in January, and the switch to paid services will happen Feb. 1, 2010.

PDC attendees can register for the Dallas community technical preview this week.

This report was updated Tuesday night with additional analyst and partner comments.

Rob Barry contributed to this story.

Barbara Darrow is the Senior News


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