Microsoft's Windows Azure software development kit and Azure tools for Visual Studio have been refreshed to include support for the planned Windows Azure cloud services platform.

The refreshed releases offer improved integration with Visual Studio, performance improvements with execution and debugging scenarios, and improvements to the storage client and ASP.Net provider samples. Bug fixes are featured as well. Also included is added support to debug Silverlight in a web role. Silverlight is Microsoft's browser plug-in-based rich Internet application platform; Microsoft released the Silverlight 2 beta last year.

A community technology preview of the two Azure technologies had been unveiled at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles in late-October. Azure enables hosting of web applications in Microsoft data centres. While the SDK is the SDK for the platform, Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio enables developers to use their familiar Visual Studio environment to develop applications for Azure using the SDK.

The two Azure technologies are separate downloads, but they provide a single developer experience, according to a Microsoft representative.

The company will continue releasing updates to the SDK based on developer feedback.

Windows Azure is being released in stages, Microsoft said on the Windows Azure blog. For example, support for native code is due this year. More information on a roadmap for Azure Services Platform and Windows Azure is due early this year. Azure provides the foundation of the Azure Services Platform, which assists developers in building applications that can span from the cloud to the data centre, PCs, the web, and phones.

In another developer-related release, Microsoft last week published source code for Silverlight 2 controls.

"With the release of this source code as well as having access to the source for the Silverlight Toolkit, you should have some great base implementations to extend and learn from," said Microsoft's Tim Heuer, a program manager for Silverlight, in a blog post.

The code was released under the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL). It is code for controls in the Silverlight runtime and SDK.