AN OVERVIEW OF THE AZURE SERVICES PLATFORM
Using computers in the cloud can make lots of sense. Rather than buying and maintaining your own machines, why not exploit the acres of Internet-accessible servers on offer today? For some applications, their code and data might both live in the cloud, where somebody else manages and maintains the systems they use. Alternatively, applications that run inside an organization—on-premises applications—might store data in the cloud or rely on other cloud infrastructure services. Applications that run on desktops and mobile devices can use services in the cloud to synchronize information across many systems or in other ways. However it’s done, exploiting the cloud’s capabilities can improve our world.
But whether an application runs in the cloud, uses services provided by the cloud, or both, some kind of application platform is required. Viewed broadly, an application platform can be thought of as anything that provides developer-accessible services for creating applications. In the local, on-premises Windows world, for example, this includes technologies such as the .NET Framework, SQL Server, and more. To let applications exploit the cloud, cloud application platforms must also exist. And because there are a variety of ways for applications to use cloud services, different kinds of cloud platforms are useful in different situations.
Microsoft’s Azure Services Platform is a group of cloud technologies, each providing a specific set of services to application developers. As Figure 1 shows, the Azure Services Platform can be used both by applications running in the cloud and by applications running on local systems.
The components of the Azure Services Platform can be used by local applications running on a variety of systems, including various flavors of Windows, mobile devices, and others. Those components include:
Windows Azure: Provides a Windows-based environment for running applications and storing data on servers in Microsoft data centers.
Microsoft .NET Services: Offers distributed infrastructure services to cloud-based and local applications.
Microsoft SQL Services: Provides data services in the cloud based on SQL Server.
Live Services: Through the Live Framework, provides access to data from Microsoft’s Live applications and others. The Live Framework also allows synchronizing this data across desktops and devices, finding and downloading applications, and more.
Each component of the Azure Services Platform has its own role to play. This overview describes all four, first at a high level, then in a bit more detail. While none of them are yet final—details and more might change before their initial release—it’s not too early to start understanding this new set of platform technologies.
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