What is Windows Azure?

Windows Azure is Microsoft’s offering in the rapidly emerging “Cloud Computing” market.  Essentially it is a collection of services running in Microsoft data centers that can be used by developers to deploy applications.  This frees the developer from having to worry about things like managing networks, purchasing hardware and provisioning servers.

 An often confusing issue is that people will refer to both the “Windows Azure Platform” and “Windows Azure”.  They are different, but related, entities.  Windows Azure is a component of the Azure Platform.  The Azure Platform also includes a relational database called SQL Azure and another set of services known as the “AppFabric”.  This post will focus on the Windows Azure part of the Azure Platform.  Subsequent posts will cover SQL Azure and AppFabric.


Figure 1 The Windows Azure Platform

 Microsoft describes Windows Azure as a “cloud services operating system”.  Just like a conventional operating system (think Windows, for example) it is a place where applications can be hosted.  Windows Azure provides compute and storage resources that a developer can leverage.  There is also a third component to Windows Azure called the “Fabric” (distinct from AppFabric in the platform) which sort of ties everything together and provides capabilities to manage and monitor applications.  Fundamentally, you can think of Azure as “Windows in the Cloud”.


Figure 2 Windows Azure

So, are you curious about how you may be able to use this technology to meet your own application development challenges?  Would you like to able to focus on your specific business problem without having to administer physical machines?  Then follow this series of blogs following the development of Learning Tree’s course entitled “Windows Azure Platform Introduction: Programming Cloud-Based Applications”.  As the course evolves we drill down into each of these components and discuss how the Azure technology can be employed to deliver well architected applications which are scalable beyond what might be possible using a traditional on-premises solution!

For additional information and resources on Windows Azure and the Azure Platform please visit the Microsoft Windows Azure portal at: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure.


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