Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Nick Basinger, Kevin Benedict, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Lori MacVittie

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microsoft Cloud

@CloudExpo: Blog Feed Post

Windows Azure Overview

Part One of a 2-part series

Windows Azure is a cloud-based service offered by Microsoft. It is considered a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solution, since it allows developers to design, produce, and deploy their applications entirely in the cloud — using the servers and operating systems of the provider. This eliminates the need for purchasing expensive hardware and the costs of keeping it operational. The main purpose of Windows Azure is to provide a highly available, very scalable, and easily recoverable platform for running applications in the cloud. Microsoft does all that by deploying the customer’s applications in modern data centers ensuring 99.95% uptime.

Windows Azure runs customer’s applications in three kinds of instances, including:

  • Web role instances – used for creating web-based applications running on IIS7. Developers can create the applications in ASP.NET, PHP, Java, etc.
  • Worker role instances – used for actual request processing. Web role instances usually service the end user’s requests and then let the worker role make the computations needed. The code for applications that will be using these instances can also be written in any common language.
  • VM role instances – mainly used for migrating on-premises applications to the cloud. The customer provides a preconfigured image of a Windows Server 2008 R2 running the application, and this image is then used by the application.

Each application can use any number of web role and worker role instances, or it can completely run on VM role instances. The customer makes this decision when uploading the application. If the application needs more or less resources after a while, the customer simply changes the number in the configuration file for this application.
The design of Windows Azure consists of the following components:

  • Compute – a collection of multiple instances of each role that the application needs for computation power and for servicing users’ requests.
  • Storage – the way that the application stores its data. Different ways are by using blobs, tables, or queues. Blobs are just collections of binary data. Tables (not relational tables) are usually used because they are structured in nature and map the data with their properties. Applications that need relational storage can take advantage of SQL Azure — another cloud service offered by Microsoft. Queues are used for communication between Web and Worker role instances (for example, a web role instance may use the queue of a worker role instance for a task requested by an end user but that is too complicated for the web role instance; each role instance listens on such a queue).
  • Fabric Controller – an application that uses fabric agents to communicate with all the servers in its environment. The fabric controller makes smart decisions about which servers should host new instances needed by applications based on its goal of optimum resource utilization and its knowledge of the environment. It is also used for monitoring all the running applications and for setting up a new instance in case a previous one crashes. The fabric controller is also responsible for managing the operating system that hosts the application. This way, Windows Azure functions as a Platform-as-a-Service solution.
  • CDN – used for duplicating selected content on multiple servers placed in strategic positions. The first time content (in terms of a blob of data) is accessed by a user, this content is cached on a server that is close to the user (in terms of access speed). The next time a user close to that server tries to access the same content, the user will get it from the cached copy, not from the original.
  • Connect – used for connecting a cloud-based application with on-premises-based storage and services. An application can run a Web role instance in the cloud but then connect to internal database servers for information. This IP-level connectivity can also be used by the application to connect to on-premises Active Directory infrastructure and use account details for access control or single sign-on.

In this article we focused on the design of Windows Azure. In the next article for our blog, we will discuss the pros and cons of using Windows Azure. This discussion will help you determine whether or not it is a good solution for your applications.

More Stories By Hovhannes Avoyan

Hovhannes Avoyan is the CEO of PicsArt, Inc.,

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.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
If a machine can invent, does this mean the end of the patent system as we know it? The patent system, both in the US and Europe, allows companies to protect their inventions and helps foster innovation. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be set to disrupt the patent system as we know it. This talk will examine how AI may change the patent landscape in the years to come. Furthermore, ways in which companies can best protect their AI related inventions will be examined from both a US and...
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities - ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups.
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
Chris Matthieu is the President & CEO of Computes, inc. He brings 30 years of experience in development and launches of disruptive technologies to create new market opportunities as well as enhance enterprise product portfolios with emerging technologies. His most recent venture was Octoblu, a cross-protocol Internet of Things (IoT) mesh network platform, acquired by Citrix. Prior to co-founding Octoblu, Chris was founder of Nodester, an open-source Node.JS PaaS which was acquired by AppFog and ...
The deluge of IoT sensor data collected from connected devices and the powerful AI required to make that data actionable are giving rise to a hybrid ecosystem in which cloud, on-prem and edge processes become interweaved. Attendees will learn how emerging composable infrastructure solutions deliver the adaptive architecture needed to manage this new data reality. Machine learning algorithms can better anticipate data storms and automate resources to support surges, including fully scalable GPU-c...
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
The standardization of container runtimes and images has sparked the creation of an almost overwhelming number of new open source projects that build on and otherwise work with these specifications. Of course, there's Kubernetes, which orchestrates and manages collections of containers. It was one of the first and best-known examples of projects that make containers truly useful for production use. However, more recently, the container ecosystem has truly exploded. A service mesh like Istio addr...
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
Whenever a new technology hits the high points of hype, everyone starts talking about it like it will solve all their business problems. Blockchain is one of those technologies. According to Gartner's latest report on the hype cycle of emerging technologies, blockchain has just passed the peak of their hype cycle curve. If you read the news articles about it, one would think it has taken over the technology world. No disruptive technology is without its challenges and potential impediments t...