Azure preview - my first impressions and some screenshots
I received an email from Microsoft today inviting me to try out their new Azure platform prior to its commercial launch.
Azure is an exciting new service from Microsoft for creating applications that are available over the internet. In other words, this is a new way of setting-up Cloud-based apps. Almost anything that you could ever want to do on the web -- from making files available to Ajax services for your personal blog, to running enterprise-scale databases, websites and web services, etc -- it can be achieved quickly and easily on the Azure platform. This puts an entire, scalable Cloud infrastructure at your disposal.
Everything you need to know about Azure, in one paragraph ;)
Azure is just a brand name for a new platform offered by Microsoft where you can put some of your technology. Your websites, web services, APIs, databases, etc, can all run on Azure very nicely. With Azure you can happily put all your technology and data out there in the Cloud (i.e. located on the Internet); or just as easily keep some or most of your technology elsewhere -- whether it's on physical hardware on-site, or hosted off-site. So Azure is simply giving us a new option for hosting technology. The simplest thing you'd do with Azure is probably a web site or app hosted on Windows Azure. You can do so much more though, e.g. with SQL Azure (essentially just SQL Server). That's all there is too it really. It's simple. The diagram above says it all, really.
Azure is hugely and dynamically scalable, so it's absolutely ideal if you may need to deal with sudden spikes. (Conventionally hosted websites often fail when there is a big traffic spike. For example, I am aware of websites offering local news and travel information [running on Django and other platforms] which crashed during the snow storms here in the UK earlier this year. Other common causes of traffic spikes include popular content, features, competitions, etc.) I tend to use ASP.NET web apps and .NET worker apps. PHP, CGI, Ruby and even Python will also be supported. Azure us cheap -- very competitive compared to alternative hosting strategies.
Azure is an important part of the future of technology from Microsoft, and the Cloud is an important part of the future of technology in general. We're at the height of the technological revolution. Technology has evolved with astonishing speed over the past five decades through a series of major steps -- from mainframes, to PCs, to the web, and now Cloud architectures. The next big step in the evolution of technology is the Cloud, and with it Azure.
There's a dedicated website for getting more information about Azure, including videos and online tutorials. Participants in the pre-launch "Dip In" trial programme also get a free training session to help us get started with trying-out the new service. I'll be trying it out so, if you're interested or perhaps just curious, watch this space for more info....
30 September 2009