Microsoft is improving accommodations for Java developers on the Windows Azure cloud, with an upgraded plugin for Eclipse-based software developers.

Unveiled late last week, the June CTP (community technology preview) of the Windows Azure Plugin for Eclipse with Java is intended to help Eclipse users build and configure deployment packages of their Java applications for Azure, said Martin Sawicki, senior program manager for the interoperability strategy team at Microsoft.

"I invite you to take a look at our latest release and share your feedback to help us make further progress in helping Java developers take advantage of the Windows Azure cloud," Sawicki said.

"There are many ways to build packages to deploy to Windows Azure, including Visual Studio and command line-based tools. For Java developers, we believe the Eclipse plugin we are providing may be the easiest," Sawicki said. "And we have received a strong response from developers that these serve as great learning tools to understand how to take advantage of the Windows Azure cloud offering."

New features include a UI for remote access configuration for troubleshooting purposes as well as schema validation and auto-complete for *.cscfg and *.csdef Azure configuration files. Other key features include an Azure project creation wizard, sample utility scripts for downloading or unzipping files, shortcuts to test deployment in the Azure compute emulator, an Ant-based builder and a project properties UI for configuring Azure roles.

Developers can download the plugin or use the Eclipse "Install New Software" feature. The plugin is compatible with Microsoft's Windows Azure Starter Kit for Java.

The June CTP is the third one released. Previous CTPs were offered in April and March. "We will continue to make updates to these tools and make them available to the community throughout the Windows Azure development process," Sawicki said.