The Windows Azure Platform: Focus on your application, not the infrastructure
As an architect, building solutions that use computers in the cloud can make considerable sense. Rather than buying and maintaining your own machines, why not exploit the acres of Internet-accessible servers that are available today? For some applications, both code and data might live in the cloud, where somebody else manages and maintains the systems they use. Alternatively, applications that run inside an organization - on-premises applications - might store data in the cloud or rely on other cloud infrastructure services.
But whether an application runs in the cloud, uses services provided by the cloud, or both, some kind of application platform is required. Viewed broadly, an application platform can be thought of as anything that provides architect and developer-accessible services for creating and deploying applications. In the local, on-premises Windows world, for example, this includes technologies such as Windows Server, .NET Framework, SQL Server, and many more. To enable applications to exploit the cloud, there is also a need for cloud application platforms.
Microsoft's Windows Azure platform is a group of cloud technologies, each providing a specific set of services to architects enabling them to build a multitude of solutions.
The sections presented on this page provide you as an architect with the various perspectives of what Windows Azure means and how it can help you to build the right architectures.
Cloud computing is here. Running applications on machines in an Internet-accessible data centre offers a whole range of advantages. Yet wherever they run, applications are built on some kind of platform. For on-premises applications, this platform usually includes an operating system, a way of storing data, and perhaps more. Applications running in the cloud need a similar foundation, which is provided by Microsoft's Windows Azure Platform.
Read more about the Microsoft Windows Azure Platform in this excellent whitepaper written by David Chappell:
Introducing the Windows Azure Platform. Then, if time allows, you will also find an excellent paper about the
benefits and risks of cloud platforms.
The Windows Azure Platform is an Internet-scale cloud services platform hosted through Microsoft data centres. It simplifies maintaining and operating applications by providing on-demand computing and storage facilities in order to host, scale, and manage web and connected applications.
Infrastructure management is automated with a platform that is designed for high availability and for dynamic scaling to match usage needs with the option of a pay-as-you-go pricing model. The Windows Azure platform provides an open, standards-based and interoperable environment with support for multiple Internet protocols, including HTTP/HTTPS, REST, SOAP, and XML.
The main components and technologies found within the Windows Azure Platform are:
- Windows Azure: Windows Azure is the operating system that serves as the development, run-time, and control environment for the Windows Azure Platform. Windows Azure handles load balancing and resource management and automatically manages the life cycle of a service-based on requirements that the owner of the service has established.
- SQL Azure Database: SQL Azure Database is a cloud-based relational database service built on SQL Server technologies. It provides a highly available, scalable, multi-tenant database service hosted by Microsoft in the cloud. SQL Azure Database helps to ease provisioning and deployment of multiple databases and can help reduce costs by integrating with existing toolsets and providing symmetry with on-premises and cloud databases.
- Windows Azure Platform AppFabric: Windows Azure Platform AppFabric helps architects to connect applications and services in the cloud or on-premises. This includes applications running on Windows Azure, Windows Server and a number of other platforms including Java, Ruby, PHP and others. It provides a Service Bus for connectivity across network and organizational boundaries, plus Access Control for federated authorization as a service.
For each of these technologies we have created labs, presentations and other interesting material enabling you to explore the Microsoft Windows Azure Platform:
Windows Azure Platform Training Kit - The Windows Azure Platform training kit includes a comprehensive set of technical content including hands-on labs, presentations, and demos that are designed to help you learn how to use the Windows Azure platform. You can download the training kit
Windows Azure SDK provides architects and developers with the APIs, tools, documentation and samples needed to develop Internet-scale applications that run on Windows Azure. You can download the SDK
Windows Azure AppFabric SDK for Service Bus and Access Control includes API libraries, tools, samples, and documentation for building connected applications with the .NET platform. You can download the SDK
Additionally, if you would like to learn more about a specific topic, please feel free to explore following additional resources:
This section contains a wide range of additional resources providing more general information about the Windows Azure Platform.
Windows Azure is one of the key components of the Windows Azure Platform, providing computation and storage capabilities. This section contains a wide range of additional resources elaborating on these capabilities, which are of intrest for architects.
Enterprise applications require relational storage and SQL Azure has been built for precisely that purpose. This section contains additional resources exploring the different aspects of SQL Azure.
Windows Azure Platform AppFabric
Within an enterprise context, interoperability and security are the cornerstones for building the right solutions. The Windows Azure Platform AppFabric is one of the key elements in supporting you as an architect in building these solutions.
You can start building your own applications now and deploy them on Windows Azure in 3 simple and easy steps:
Download the Tools:
Get Visual Studio Express and the Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio to
start building and debugging applications for the Windows Azure Platform. If you have already installed Visual Studio, you can download the tools directly from
Set up an Account:
Set up an account and get a free subscription for accessing the online portals for Windows Azure, SQL Azure and Windows Azure AppFabric. You can learn more about the
accounts or you can sign up directly and receive the
Create your First application and Deploy it on the Windows Azure Platform:
First learn how to
create a simple ASP.NET application in Visual Studio for Windows Azure on your local machine. Once successfully created, learn how to
deploy this application on the Windows Azure Platform.
When all steps have been carried out in full, you should have your first application running on the Windows Azure Platform!