Microsoft is preparing to launch a new persistent virtual machine feature on its Azure cloud platform, enabling customers to host Linux, SharePoint and SQL Server there . . . To date, Microsoft has been balking at customer requests to add persistent VMs to Azure, hoping to get customers to develop Azure apps from scratch instead. But the lack of the ability to host apps like SharePoint and other third-party business applications with persistence was a deal breaker for a number of business users who were unwilling to consider Azure until Microsoft added this support, one of my contacts said.