Windows Azure Finds Ultimate Use: “Halo 4”

Master Chief ponders the mysteries of universe.


Master Chief, a personality-free but deadly efficient soldier in the far future, has blasted his merry way through several games in Microsoft’s Halo series. He’s faced all manner of slavering beasties, exploding starships, ancient artifacts, and nefarious plans. But there’s one thing his pulse rifle and other weapons can’t possibly dent: the strain on IT infrastructure from millions of people wanting to play as him.

Once Halo 4 hits store shelves Nov. 6, Microsoft will rely on its Azure cloud-infrastructure platform to handle what will almost certainly be an insane crush of online players.

“Part of what we were looking to Azure for was how to reduce cost,” Jerry Hook, executive producer of the Halo series, told Mashable in an Oct. 31 interview. “The game is very peak oriented, where you’ll have a big rush of consumers coming right at the beginning. That really stresses your services, and you normally have to build out for it, which is extremely expensive. So the elasticity that Azure brings allows us to scale back down.”

In theory, Azure’s Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) capabilities will also allow Microsoft’s developers to test and launch new modules and software as necessary. This is also one of those times when being a massive conglomerate with lots of different, massive divisions comes in handy: since Microsoft owns both Azure and the Halo franchise, it can potentially apply the former’s resources to the latter in a more seamless fashion.

Microsoft has been upgrading Azure to handle customers’ increased needs for Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). For example, Microsoft recently announced it would bring Windows Azure Web Sites, Virtual Machines, Service Management Portal and APIs to Windows Server. That means hosting providers using Microsoft’s platform can offer client services such as Website hosting and virtual machines (VM). This modified IaaS offering could very well position Microsoft to compete more heartily with Amazon and other providers.

In June, Microsoft also updated Windows Azure services for developers. New features included an IaaS layer and persistent virtual machines for running both Windows and Linux applications in the cloud. On top of that, the updated Azure featured new language libraries for Java, PHP, Node.js, and .NET, as well as the ability to bring customized Linux images into the Azure cloud environment.


Image: Microsoft