BizSpark free software programme to boost Azure

Microsoft aims to boost its new Windows Azure cloud services platform

Microsoft's new BizSpark programme, which provides software and services to startups, is geared to boost the company's newly announced Windows Azure cloud services platform.

"The cornerstone [of the programme] is to get into the hands of the startup community all of our development tools and servers required to build web-based solutions," said Dan'l Lewin, corporate vice president of Strategic and Emerging Business Development at Microsoft. Participants around the globe also gain visibility and marketing, Lewin said.

BizSpark will be leveraged as an opportunity to boost the Azure platform, with participants having access to the Azure Services Platform CTP (Community Technology Preview) introduced last week.

"We expect many of them will be taking advantage of cloud services," as part of their company creation, Lewin said.

Participants also can access the CTP of Live Framework, which handles user data and application resources within Azure Services Platform. Live Mesh technologies for data synchronisation also are part Azure Services Platform.

Additionally, participants building hosted software can leverage Microsoft software, such as Windows Server, the SQL Server database,the BizTalk Server business process management platform, and the SharePoint Server platform for collaboration. Participants also can access the company's Visual Studio development environment. They also will be able to use open-source tools or server technologies such as the PHP language. Startups pay just a US$100 exit fee when leaving the programme after three years.

Startups will be nominated for participation in the programme by organisations like venture capitalists, government agencies, and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE). A global network of organisations like TiE and the National Venture Capital Association will offer guidance and resources for startups.

At TiE, Suran Dutia, CEO of TiE Global, expressed hope that the program could foster the kind of entrepreneurship that could help overcome the current climate of economic malaise.

"The reason why we have embraced this programme, and we're very, very excited about it to be candid with you, is since our singular mission is to advance entrepreneurship, we feel that we have a unique opportunity to help accomplish [TiE's] mission through this programme," Dutia said. He added he would like to see thousands of entrepreneurs created through BizSpark.

A participant in the programme lauded the resource access. "We get access to these high-profile [people] for free," which is a boost for a startup without a lot of resources, said Nick Ganju, CTO at ZocDoc, which offers an online service for booking doctor and dentist appointments. ZocDoc, though, has not yet considered whether it will host its technology on a cloud system like Microsoft's Azure platform.

The criteria for being in the programme are being a private company, in business fewer than three years, and less than US$1 million in revenue when entering the programme, Lewin said.

BizSpark information was slated to be available at this Web page.

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