Practically Speaking About Cloud Computing: Microsoft Windows Azure Part I

Microsoft Windows Azure – Part I

By now, almost everybody is convinced that cloud computing is here to stay; more applications are getting transformed from on-premises based data center to internet accessible data centers. The benefits of the same are far exceeding compared to the risk associated with it. While the cloud offering from Amazon Web Services, which we discussed in detail in, are more towards IaaS or Infrastructure as a Service, Microsoft Windows Azure is more towards a PaaS or Platform as a Service offering. Running applications need a platform. Traditionally this platform can consist of a Server Operating System, Web server software, Database and more. Applications running in the cloud also need a similar platform. Microsoft Windows Azure provides a similar platform in cloud. Microsoft Windows Azure runs on Microsoft data centers spread worldwide.

In this brief article we’ll look at:

  • What is Windows Azure?
  • What are the different components and services?
  • Is it standing vis-a- vis with other leading cloud service providers like Amazon, RackSpace, Terremark etc…
  • The future of Azure

As a series of blog posts/articles, this is part I.

Windows Azure is a service from Microsoft. Companies can use this service to run their applications and store their data. The applications can be consumed by the company employees itself or by the customers of the company. The platform provides basic components like Computing, Storage capacity and a Fabric. As we have seen in Amazon Web Services, computing component runs the application (like EC2 in AWS) and storage component stores the data (like S3 in AWS). Fabric or AppFabric provides a common way to manage and monitor applications that use Windows Azure Platform.


The compute service of Windows Azure is primarily intended for running different kind of applications. The design is tuned to support applications with a large number of simultaneous users. Windows Azure is designed to support applications that can scale out, running multiple copies of the same code across many servers. As usual or as done in other cloud services, multiple instances / virtual machine are created. Amazon Web Services uses Xen Virtualization technology in its public cloud service. Microsoft uses is Hyper –V hypervisor technology in Windows Azure. Accessing the compute service goes with account creation and through a browser. In Windows Azure there are two different types of instances.  Web Role Instance and Worker Role Instance. The web role instance is with IIS or Internet Information Server and accepts incoming http (or https) requests.  Worker role instances do not have IIS configured and so they are not hosted.

( To be contd.)

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