All you need to know about Windows Azure



PDC09, Microsoft’s Professional Developer Conference is all set to kick off on 17th November. Among many exciting technologies, Windows Azure will be one of the highlights of the event. Windows Azure is a cloud based services operating system that provides developers on-demand computing environment, storage for hosting and scalability purposes and web application management. With Windows Azure, user’s web applications are hosted on Microsoft’s datacenters.

 

 

Windows Azure Core Components

Windows Azure is composed of three main components which includes Storage, Compute and Fabric controller:

  • Compute provides the computing environment with web role and worker role.
  • Storage fulfills the storage and scalability needs of a user
  • Fabric controller is the hosting environment for Windows Azure. Fabric controller is responsible for performing resource management, load balancing, and geo-replication.

One of the biggest advantages that developers get out of Windows Azure is that they are not required to learn any new technology and can use their existing development expertise to build Windows Azure compatible application and services.

Windows Azure is an open platform

Windows Azure is an open platform that supports Microsoft languages as well as non Microsoft languages such as PHP and popular standards and protocols such as XML, SOAP and REST.

Windows Azure Features

The features that Windows Azure provides can be classified into three main categories namely Computation, Development Tools and Data Storage.

Computation

  • Ability to run Microsoft ASP.NET Web applications or .NET code in the cloud
  • Provides a service hosting environment that includes Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0 and Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1
  • Security supported by flexible Code Access Security policies
  • Small runtime API that supports logging and local scratch storage
  • Web portal that helps you deploy, scale, and upgrade your services quickly and easily
  • FastCGI support allows customers to deploy and run web applications written with non-Microsoft programming languages such as PHP
  • .NET Full Trust to allow usage of additional .NET features such as Windows Communication Foundation (WCF).
  • From Full Trust .NET, developers can call into unmanaged DLLs

Simple Data Storage

  • Ability to run Microsoft ASP.NET Web applications or .NET code in the cloud
  • Provides a service hosting environment that includes Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0 and Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1
  • Security supported by flexible Code Access Security policies

Development Tools

  • Complete offline development environment, including computation and storage services
  • Complete command-line SDK tools and samples
  • Visual Studio add-in that enables local debugging
  • Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio extend Visual Studio 2008 and Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 to enable the creation, building, debugging, running and packaging of scalable web applications and services on Windows Azure.

Windows Azure Benefits

The advantages that Windows Azure provides are:


  • Reduced costs of building and extending on-premises resources
  • Reduces the effort and costs of IT management
  • Respond quickly to changes in your business and customer needs
  • Choose an on-premises or off-premises deployment model that best suits your needs.
  • Scale your IT resources up and down based on your needs.
  • Consume computing resources ONLY when the needs arise.
  • Focus less energy on managing operational resources and constraints.
  • Use your existing development skills to build cloud applications
  • Consistent development and management experience across on-premises and the cloud.

Pricing

Consumption Plan (Pay as you go)

  • 12 cents per hour.
  • 15 cents per gigabyte for storage.
  • 10 cents per 10,000 storage transactions.
  • Bandwidth charges: 10 cents and 15 cents per gigabyte.

Development Accelerator (Subscription plan)

Standard rates but with 15 to 30% discount for 6 months. Reverts back to the standard rates after 6 months.

SQL Azure database

Web edition: $9.99 – with 1GB relational database

Business Edition:  $99.99 = with up to 10GB database

99.95% reliability for computing and connectivity and 99.9% for role instance and storage are guaranteed by Microsoft.

When Windows Azure is launched at PDC, it is sure to face a tough competition from Amazon which also provides cloud based services and has been in the cloud business for a long time.

Currently, Windows Azure is available as a Community Technical Preview (CTP). Microsoft will start charging users for Windows Azure services starting from February 2010.

You can find out more about Windows Azure sessions at PDC09 here.

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