Windows Azure Cloud Services: Overview

By Partho, Gaea News Network
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Windows Azure Platform is a flexible and familiar environment for developers to create cloud applications and services. The platform offers Windows-based compute and storage service for cloud applications. We are moving into an era where driven by choice and flexibility in how they develop and deploy applications. Users across PCs, phones and the web use application from the data centers that are referred as private clouds or public clouds. The applications running in an organization or on the premises can store data in the cloud or may rely on other cloud infrastructure service. Encouraging a new wave of cloud computing Windows Azure and SQL Azure has been designed to address the need of developers looking for a comprehensive platform to build great applications and profitable businesses. Microsoft has developed a Azure for developing powerful new generation of applications that will address both businesses and consumers - enabled by new Microsoft development tools and technologies. Currently in Community Technology Preview (CTP), the services is available free for evaluation through January 2010.

Windows Azure Service Platform: three major components


The Windows Azure platform supports applications, data, and infrastructure in the cloud.

1) Microsoft SQL services

It features a suite of cloud-based SQL capabilities. One of the integral capability included in the service is the SQL Data Services that provides internet-facing database and advanced query processing services for customers building new applications or integrating with existing investments into the cloud. Developers would be benefited from the flexibility, scalability and agility.

Uses of SQL Azure

We could take some instances provided by David Chappell

  • The data of Windows Azure application can be stored in SQL Azure Database. Windows Azure offers its own storage but lacks support for relational tables. There are several applications that use relational storage and most of the developers are familiar with it, Windows Azure application would prefer SQL Azure Database to work with.
  • The small business or department of big organization can use SQL Azure Database. Instead of storing its data in a SQL Server or Access database that runs on a computer under any desk, the application can take advantage of the reliability and availability of cloud storage.
  • In case, a manufacturer wants to make a product information available to both its dealer network and directly to customers. The data can be placed in SQL Azure Database that would allow it to be accessed by applications that are running at the dealers and by the customers facing web application that are run by the manufacturer.

.NET Services

This suite of web services designed for developers requiring integration and business to business collaboration. The service includes workflow, access control and service bus connectivity. The developers will have access to the applications in the cloud through a flexible, scalable and interpolatable platform.

Components of .NET services

Service Bus

It is hard to expose an application services on the internet. The Service Bus simplifies the application by exposing web services end points that can be accessed by other applications, whether on premises or in the cloud. Each of the end point is assigned to a URI. It is used by the clients to locate and access the service. Service Bus also manages the network address translation and helps to get through the Firewalls without opening new ports for exposed applications.

Access Control

This is a widely used approach to identity that involves each user being supplied with an application and a token that contains some set of claims. Based on the claims the  application can decide what the user wants. Doing this effectively across companies requires identify federation that allows claims to be created in one identity scope that can be accepted in another.

Use of the .Net Services

Let’s take an example. Consider an enterprise looking to offer software at its trading partners to access one of its applications. The application’s functions could be exposed through SOAP or RESTful Web services and then register their endpoints with Service Bus. The trading partners could then use Service Bus to find these endpoints and access the services. To do this they won’t require to open new ports in the organization’s firewall. This would minimize the risk of exposing the application.

3) Live Services

The component encloses the Microsoft’s web services that form the core functionality of Windows Live - Windows Live Messenger, Live search and all other live services. It is an open and interpolate client runtime technology that can connect the power and scale of web experience to consistent and rich client applications across various devices.

Knitty-gritty of Windows Azure


Windows Azure runs on large number of machines that are located in Microsoft data centers and accessible via Internet. The plethora of processing power is integrated into a unified system by Windows Azure fabric. The computing and storage devices are ensconced on this Windows Azure fabric. Initially, Microsoft allowed Windows Azure to run only applications built on the .NET Framework. Now, the developers can also run the applications that are not .NET based framework.

Working with Applications

Windows Azure any application has multiple instances. This ensures that each app runs a copy of all or part of the application’s code. All the instances are runs in their own virtual machine (VM). The VMs run 64-bit Windows Server 2008, and they are equipped with hypervisor, which are specifically designed for use in the cloud. The developer doesn’t require to provide his VM Image for Windows Azure to run. Further, they don’t need to maintain a copy of the Windows OS. The CTP version allows the developers to create application using Web role instances and worker role instances.

New Inclusions

In PDC 2009 Microsoft announced a number of new features tools and SDK for Windows Azure. Let’s have a sight of the new features

  • Service Model UI
  • Windows Azure Service Hosting Runtime Managed Library
  • Windows Azure Diagnostics Managed Library
  • Windows Azure Storage Client Managed Library
  • Certificate Management
  • Variable-size Virtual Machines (VMs)
  • External endpoints for worker roles
  • Persistent Local Resource Storage
  • Additional role templates
  • Development Storage


According to Ray Valdes, an analyst with Gartner, Azure is looking for the second wave. He explains that this wave is the next step after the raw infrastructure. When the companies would start moving from real systems to the cloud and those systems are hybrid, so they would have to connect back in significant ways to legacy environments. Microsoft is all set to take up the big opportunity with its Project Sydney, AppFabric, System Center Cloud, Next Generation Active Directory, and updates to the .Net Framework that would offer bridges between corporate networks and cloud services. Only a small portion of the software are available currently, the beta are expected to hit in 2010.

November 1, 2010: 5:56 am

I am also a developer. Windows Azure Platform is really very flexible and familiar environment for us to create cloud applications and services.

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July 6, 2010: 3:52 pm

Thanks for the info provided here! It saved me a ton of time.

June 28, 2010: 4:16 am

Great post Sir, thanks for give me one more knowledge.

Sudhir Kirloskar
November 30, 2009: 2:28 am

Nice Partho. Good ‘to the point’ overview.

November 25, 2009: 12:44 am

Its greatly helpful for the developers to create cloud applications.

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