Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Andreas Grabner, Stackify Blog, Liz McMillan, David H Deans, Automic Blog

Related Topics: Microsoft Cloud, Microservices Expo, @CloudExpo

Microsoft Cloud: Article

Windows Azure Series – Introduction to Windows Azure

Part 1: A brief overview of what’s possible

I've done a Windows Azure Series together with Mario Szpusta, Software Architect Evangelist at Microsoft Austria on Windows Azure. The Series is in German and I decided to bring it to Cloud Computing Journal. I will modify some of the articles to bring them up-to-date. This series will cover about 15 articles that will be published once a week.

What Is Windows Azure?
Windows Azure is Microsoft's Platform as a Service offering for Cloud Computing. There are three major fields in Windows Azure. Figure 1 provides an overview of the platform.

Figure 1

The three fields are Windows Azure, SQL Azure and Windows Azure AppFabric. There are several other services that are part of each field. Windows Azure is a platform for web applications, SQL Azure is a comprehensive database in the cloud based on Microsoft SQL Server, and Windows Azure AppFabric contains enterprise techniques such as the service bus or access control. The name for Microsoft's cloud platforms is "Azure Services Platform" and Windows Azure is one part of this platform. Nevertheless, most people say Windows Azure and mean all three parts. Let's continue by examining each part of the Azure Services Platform.

Windows Azure
Windows Azure is the platform that allows us to build applications for the cloud. There are several components such as compute, storage, and content delivery. Figure 2 provides an overview of Windows Azure.

Figure 2

Windows Azure Compute allows developers to build cloud-based applications. There are three major Roles: WebRole, WorkerRole and VMRole. The WebRole is designed to build web applications on top of Windows Azure. Possible frameworks and tools are ASP.NET, ASP.NET MVC, and FastCGI such as PHP. The WorkerRole is designed for high-performance tasks such as background processing. A WorkerRole might be used to process tasks from a Wwebsite (WebRole) to decouple applications. The Windows Azure VMRole allows users to upload their images (virtual hard drive, VHD) to the cloud. This enables enterprises to run existing servers in the cloud.

Another major part of Windows Azure is storage. Storage contains three elements: Table Storage, Blob Storage and the Message Queue. I personally like the Table Storage a lot as it's a NoSQL Store that allows enterprises to store large amount of data in a Table Storage without the side-effects of relational databases. The Blob Storage is designed to store large binary objects such as videos, images or documents. Finally, the Message Queue is designed to enable messaging between components. It's useful for scalable and distributed applications in the cloud.

The Windows Azure Virtual Network was launched at PDC 2010 in Redmond. There might be several additions to the product in the future. So far, Windows Azure Virtual Network contains one sub-product called "Windows Azure Connect." Windows Azure Connect allows direct IP-connections between the cloud and on-premise datacenters. This targets interoperability between existing platforms and future cloud platforms. A great feature of Windows Azure Connect is the Active Directory integration. Many companies use Active Directory for their rights management so this gives cloud-based solutions the opportunity to use existing rights for users in the cloud.

The Content Delivery Network is already known by the names "Windows Update" or "Zune Marketplace." It basically replicates data closer to the end user in different regions. The Content Delivery Network is combined with Windows Azure Storage and built for high-performance content delivery in various regions. The Content Delivery Network can be used to stream videos, and distribute files or other content to end users in a specific region.

Currently (January 2011) the last product within Windows Azure is Windows Azure Marketplace. Marketplace allows developers and vendors to sell their products online. This can be done via the app market. Another great product is Windows Azure Marketplace Datamarket that allows companies to buy and sell data. This data can be used easily in different applications.

SQL Azure
SQL Azure is Microsoft's relational Database in the Cloud. It's based on SQL Server 2008. Figure 3 gives an overview on each part of SQL Azure.

Figure 3

SQL Azure is another PaaS offering by Microsoft that is built on top of SQL Server Technologies. The main product is SQL Azure Database, a relational database in the cloud. The benefit of this is that there is no maintenance or installation required. SQL Azure also takes care of the scaling and partitioning. The thing I like most about SQL Azure is how easy it is to calculate the costs compared to other databases.

SQL Azure DataSync is built on top of the Sync Framework. Its main target is to enable data synchronization between different datacenters. SQL Azure Reporting adds reporting and BI functionality to SQL Azure. These two products are not yet commercially available (January 2011) but can be used as a preview.

Windows Azure AppFabric
Windows Azure AppFabric is a middleware for the cloud. It can be used to integrate existing applications and to allow interoperability. Windows Azure AppFabric is also very useful for hybrid cloud solutions.

Figure 4

There are currently five different products in Windows Azure AppFabric. AppFabricServiceBus serves as a reliable way for messaging in service discovery in the cloud. The Windows Azure Access Control allows users to authenticate based on different credentials such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Windows Live and enterprise authentication such as Active Directory.

Caching is often a problem in enterprise applications. If an application needs to scale over more instances, caching is often a bottleneck that might cause some negative side effects. With Windows Server 2008 AppFabric, caching was introduced to solve this problem. This is now also integrated into Windows Azure and solves caching problems between Windows Azure and SQL Azure that might occur with large-scale systems. Integration allows users to integrate existing BizTalk Server Tasks into Windows Azure. Last but not least there are composite applications that can be used to deploy distributed systems based on the Windows Communication Foundation and the Workflow Foundation.

There are a lot of products that come with Windows Azure. In the next couple of month I'll dig much deeper. This article is a brief overview on what is possible. The next article will focus on the Windows Azure Platform where I'll describe the functionality of Windows Azure and the storage capabilities.

•   •   •

"This article is part of the Windows Azure Series on Cloud Computing Journal. The Series was originally posted on Codefest.at, the official Blog of the Developer and Platform Group at Microsoft Austria. You can see the original Series here: http://www.codefest.at/?tag=/azure+tutorial"

More Stories By Mario Meir-Huber

Mario Meir-Huber studied Information Systems at the University of Linz. He worked in the IT sector for some years before founding CodeForce, an IT consulting and services company together with Andreas Aschauer. Since the advent of Cloud Computing, he has been passionate about this technology. He talks about Cloud Computing at various international events and conferences and writes for industry-leading magazines on cloud computing. He is Cloud Computing expert in various independent IT organizations and wrote a book on Cloud Computing covering all topics of the Cloud. You can follow Mario on Twitter (@mario_mh) or read his Blog at http://cloudvane.wordpress.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet giants are fully embracing AI. All the services they offer to their customers are aimed at drawing a map of the world with the data they get. The AIs from these companies are used to build disruptive approaches that cannot be used by established enterprises, which are threatened by these disruptions. However, most leaders underestimate the effect this will have on their businesses. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rene Buest, Director Market Research & Technology Evangelism at Ara...
"When we talk about cloud without compromise what we're talking about is that when people think about 'I need the flexibility of the cloud' - it's the ability to create applications and run them in a cloud environment that's far more flexible,” explained Matthew Finnie, CTO of Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, neural networks. We’re in the midst of a wave of excitement around AI such as hasn’t been seen for a few decades. But those previous periods of inflated expectations led to troughs of disappointment. Will this time be different? Most likely. Applications of AI such as predictive analytics are already decreasing costs and improving reliability of industrial machinery. Furthermore, the funding and research going into AI now comes from a wide range of com...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business...
SYS-CON Events announced today that GrapeUp, the leading provider of rapid product development at the speed of business, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market acr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ayehu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara California. Ayehu provides IT Process Automation & Orchestration solutions for IT and Security professionals to identify and resolve critical incidents and enable rapid containment, eradication, and recovery from cyber security breaches. Ayehu provides customers greater control over IT infras...
In this presentation, Striim CTO and founder Steve Wilkes will discuss practical strategies for counteracting fraud and cyberattacks by leveraging real-time streaming analytics. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Steve Wilkes, Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Striim, will provide a detailed look into leveraging streaming data management to correlate events in real time, and identify potential breaches across IoT and non-IoT systems throughout the enterprise. Strategies for processing massive ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...
In his session at Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, an entertainment executive/TV producer turned serial entrepreneur, presented a success story of an entrepreneur who has both suffered through and benefited from offshore development across multiple businesses: The smart choice, or how to select the right offshore development partner Warning signs, or how to minimize chances of making the wrong choice Collaboration, or how to establish the most effective work processes Budget control, or how to ma...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st Int\ernational Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their ...
We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assista...
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists looked at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deliver...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), provided an overview of various initiatives to certify the security of connected devices and future trends in ensuring public trust of IoT. Eric Lachapelle is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), an international certification body. His role is to help companies and individuals to achieve professional, accredited and worldwide re...
With the introduction of IoT and Smart Living in every aspect of our lives, one question has become relevant: What are the security implications? To answer this, first we have to look and explore the security models of the technologies that IoT is founded upon. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nevi Kaja, a Research Engineer at Ford Motor Company, discussed some of the security challenges of the IoT infrastructure and related how these aspects impact Smart Living. The material was delivered interac...