|By Thomas Erl||
|August 6, 2010 09:00 AM EDT||
For a complete list of the co-authors and contributors, see the end of the article.
Windows Azure Platform Overview
The Windows Azure platform is an Internet-scale cloud computing services platform hosted in Microsoft data centers. Windows tools provide functionality to build solutions that include a cloud services operating system and a set of developer services. The key parts of the Windows Azure platform are:
- Windows Azure (application container)
- Microsoft SQL Azure
- Windows Azure platform AppFabric
The infrastructure and service architectures that underlie many of these native services (as well as cloud-based services in general) are based on direct combined application of Stateful Services  and Redundant Implementation . This is made possible by leveraging several of the built-in extensions and mechanisms provided by the Windows Azure platform (as explained in this chapter and Chapter 16).
The Windows Azure platform is part of the Microsoft cloud, which consists of multiple categories of services:
- Cloud-based applications: These are services that are always available and highly scalable. They run in the Microsoft cloud that consumers can directly utilize. Examples include Bing, Windows Live Hotmail, Office Live, etc.
- Software services: These services are hosted instances of Microsoft's enterprise server products that consumers can use directly. Examples include Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online, etc.
- Platform services: This is where the Windows Azure platform itself is positioned. It serves as an application platform public cloud that developers can use to deploy next-generation, Internet-scale, and always available solutions.
- Infrastructure services: There is a limited set of elements of the Windows Azure platform that can support cloud-based infrastructure resources.
Figure 3 illustrates the service categories related to the Windows Azure platform. Given that Windows Azure is itself a platform, let's explore it as an implementation of the PaaS delivery model.
Figure 3: A high-level representation of categories of services available in the Windows Azure cloud
The Windows Azure platform was built from the ground up using Microsoft technologies, such as the Windows Server Hyper-V-based system virtualization layer. However, the Windows Azure platform is not intended to be just another off-premise Windows Server hosting environment. It has a cloud fabric layer, called the Windows Azure Fabric Controller, built on top of its underlying infrastructure.
The Windows Azure Fabric Controller pools an array of virtualized Windows Server instances into a logical entity and automatically manages the following:
- Load balancing
- Application lifecycle
These are managed without requiring the hosted applications to explicitly deal with the details. The fabric layer provides a parallel management system that abstracts the complexities in the infrastructure and presents a cloud environment that is inherently elastic. As a form of PaaS, it also supports the access points for user and application interactions with the Windows Azure platform.
The Windows Azure platform essentially provides a set of cloud-based services that are symmetric with existing mainstream on-site enterprise application platforms (see Figure 4).
Figure 4: An overview of common Windows Azure platform capabilities
- Storage services: A scalable distributed data storage system that supports many types of storage models, including hash map or table-like structured data, large binary files, asynchronous messaging queues, traditional file systems, and content distribution networks
- Compute services: Application containers that support existing mainstream development technologies and frameworks, including .NET, Java, PHP, Python, Ruby on Rails, and native code.
- Data services: Highly reliable and scalable relational database services that also support integration and data synchronization capabilities with existing on-premise relational databases
- Connectivity services: These are provided via a cloud-based service bus that can be used as a message intermediary to broker connections with other cloud-based services and services behind firewalls within on-premise enterprise environments
- Security services: Policy-driven access control services that are federation-aware and can seamlessly integrate with existing on-premise identity management systems
- Framework services: Components and tools that support specific aspects and requirements of solution frameworks
- Application services: Higher-level services that can be used to support application development, such as application and data marketplaces
All of these capabilities can be utilized individually or in combination.
Windows Azure (Application Container)
Windows Azure serves as the development, service hosting, and service management environment. It provides the application container into which code and logic, such as Visual Studio projects, can be deployed. The application environment is similar to existing Windows Server environments. In fact, most .NET projects can be deployed directly without significant changes.
A Windows Azure instance represents a unit of deployment, and is mapped to specific virtual machines with a range of variable sizes. Physical provisioning of the Windows Azure instances is handled by the cloud fabric. We are required only to specify, by policy, how many instances we want the cloud fabric to deploy for a given service.
We have the ability to manually start and shut down instances, and grow or shrink the deployment pool; however, the cloud fabric also provides automated management of the health and lifecycles of instances. For example, in the event of an instance failure, the cloud fabric would automatically shut down the instance and attempt to bring it back up on another node.
Windows Azure also provides a set of storage services that consumers can use to store and manage persistent and transient data. Storage services support geo-location and offer high durability of data by triple-replicating everything within a cluster and across data centers. Furthermore, they can manage scalability requirements by automatically partitioning and load balancing services across servers.
Also supported by Windows Azure is a VHD-based deployment model as an option to enable some IaaS requirements. This is primarily geared for services that require closer integration with the Windows Server OS. This option provides more control over the service hosting environment and can better support legacy applications.
Services deployed within Windows Azure containers and made available via Windows Azure instances establish service architectures that, on the surface, resemble typical Web service or REST service implementations. However, the nature of the back-end processing is highly extensible and scalable and can be further subject to various forms of Service Refactoring  over time to accommodate changing usage requirements. This highlights the need for Windows Azure hosted services to maintain the freedom to be independently governed and evolved. This, in turn, places a greater emphasis on the balanced design of the service contract and its proper separation as part of the overall service architecture.
Specifically, it elevates the importance of the Standardized Service Contract (693), Service Loose Coupling (695), and Service Abstraction (696) principles that, through collective application, shape and position service contracts to maximize abstraction and cross-service standardization, while minimizing negative forms of consumer and implementation coupling. Decoupled Contract  forms an expected foundation for Windows Azure-hosted service contracts, and there will generally be the need for more specialized contract-centric patterns, such as Validation Abstraction , Canonical Schema , and Schema Centralization .
SQL Azure is a cloud-based relational database service built on SQL Server technologies that exposes a fault-tolerant, scalable, and multi-tenant database service. SQL Azure does not exist as hosted instances of SQL Server. It also uses a cloud fabric layer to abstract and encapsulate the underlying technologies required for provisioning, server administration, patching, health monitoring, and lifecycle management. We are only required to deal with logical administration tasks, such as schema creation and maintenance, query optimization, and security management.
In addition to reliability and scalability improvements, SQL Azure's replication mechanism can be used to apply Service Data Replication  in support of the Service Autonomy (699) principle. This is significant, as individual service autonomy within cloud environments can often fluctuate due to the heavy emphasis on shared resources across pools of cloud-based services.
A SQL Azure database instance is actually implemented as three replicas on top of a shared SQL Server infrastructure managed by the cloud fabric. This cloud fabric delivers high availability, reliability, and scalability with automated and transparent replication and failover. It further supports load-balancing of consumer requests and the synchronization of concurrent, incremental changes across the replicas. The cloud fabric also handles concurrency conflict resolutions when performing bi-directional data synchronization between replicas by using built-in policies (such as last-writer-wins) or custom policies.
Because SQL Azure is built on SQL Server, it provides a familiar relational data model and is highly symmetric to on-premise SQL Server implementations. It supports most features available in the regular SQL Server database engine and can also be used with tools like SQL Server 2008 Management Studio, SQLCMD, and BCP, and SQL Server Integration Services for data migration.
Windows Azure Platform AppFabric
In Chapter 7, as part of our coverage of .NET Enterprise Services, we introduced Windows Server AppFabric. This represents the version of AppFabric that is local to the Windows Server environment. Windows Azure platform AppFabric (with the word "platform" intentionally not capitalized), is the cloud-based version of AppFabric that runs on Windows Azure.
Windows Azure platform AppFabric helps connect services within or across clouds and enterprises. It provides a Service Bus for connectivity across networks and organizational boundaries, and an Access Control service for federated authorization as a service.
The Service Bus acts as a centralized message broker in the cloud to relay messages between services and service consumers. It has the ability to connect to on-premise services through firewalls, NATs, and over any network topology.
Its features include:
- Connectivity using standard protocols and standard WCF bindings
- Multiple communication models (such as publish-and-subscribe, one-way messaging, unicast and multicast datagram distribution, full-duplex bi-directional connection-oriented sessions, peer-to-peer sessions, and end-to-end NAT traversal)
- Service endpoints that are published and discovered via Internet-accessible URLs
- Global hierarchical namespaces that are DNS and transport-independent
- Built-in intrusion detection and protection against denial-of-service attacks
The Windows Azure Service Bus complies to the familiar Enterprise Service Bus  compound pattern, and focuses on realizing this pattern across network, security, and organizational domains. Service Bus also provides a service registry to provide registration and discovery of service metadata, which allows for the application of Metadata Centralization  and emphasizes the need to apply the Service Discoverability (702) principle.
Access Control acts as a centralized cloud-based security gateway that regulates access to cloud-based services and Service Bus communications, while integrating with standards-based identity providers (including enterprise directories such as Active Directory and online identity systems like Windows Live ID). Access Control and other Windows Azure-related security topics are covered in Chapter 17.
Unlike Windows Azure and SQL Azure, which are based on Windows Server and SQL Server, Access Control Service is not based on an existing server product. It uses technology included in Windows Identity Foundation and is considered a purely cloud-based service built specifically for the Windows Azure platform environment.
Summary of Key Points
- The Windows Azure platform is primarily a PaaS deployed in a public cloud managed by Microsoft.
- Windows Azure platform provides a distinct set of capabilities suitable for building scalable and reliable cloud-based services.
- The overall Windows Azure platform further encompasses SQL Azure and Windows Azure platform AppFabric.
This excerpt is from the book, "SOA with .NET & Windows Azure: Realizing Service-Orientation with the Microsoft Platform", edited and co-authored by Thomas Erl, with David Chou, John deVadoss, Nitin Ghandi, Hanu Kommapalati, Brian Loesgen, Christoph Schittko, Herbjörn Wilhelmsen, and Mickie Williams, with additional contributions from Scott Golightly, Daryl Hogan, Jeff King, and Scott Seely, published by Prentice Hall Professional, June 2010, ISBN 0131582313, Copyright 2010 SOA Systems Inc. For a complete Table of Contents please visit: www.informit.com/title/0131582313
David Chou is a technical architect at Microsoft and is based in Los Angeles. His focus is on collaborating with enterprises and organizations in such areas as cloud computing, SOA, Web, distributed systems, and security.
John deVadoss leads the Patterns & Practices team at Microsoft and is based in Redmond, WA.
Thomas Erl is the world's top-selling SOA author, series editor of the Prentice Hall Service-Oriented Computing Series from Thomas Erl (www.soabooks.com), and editor of the SOA Magazine (www.soamag.com).
Nitin Gandhi is an enterprise architect and an independent software consultant, based in Vancouver, BC.
Hanu Kommalapati is a Principal Platform Strategy Advisor for a Microsoft Developer and Platform Evangelism team based in North America.
Brian Loesgen is a Principal SOA Architect with Microsoft, based in San Diego. His extensive experience includes building sophisticated enterprise, ESB and SOA solutions.
Christoph Schittko is an architect for Microsoft, based in Texas. His focus is to work with customers to build innovative solutions that combine software + services for cutting edge user experiences and the leveraging of service-oriented architecture (SOA) solutions.
Herbjörn Wilhelmsen is a consultant at Forefront Consulting Group, based in Stockholm, Sweden. His main areas of focus are Service-Oriented Architecture, Cloud Computing and Business Architecture.
Mickey Williams leads the Technology Platform Group at Neudesic, based in Laguna Hills,
Scott Golightly is currently an Enterprise Solution Strategist with Advaiya, Inc; he is also a Microsoft Regional Director with more than 15 years of experience helping clients to create solutions to business problems with various technologies.
Darryl Hogan is an architect with more than 15 years experience in the IT industry. Darryl has gained significant practical experience during his career as a consultant, technical evangelist and architect.
As a Senior Technical Product Manager at Microsoft, Kris works with customers, partners, and industry analysts to ensure the next generation of Microsoft technology meets customers' requirements for building distributed, service-oriented solutions.
Jeff King has been working with the Windows Azure platform since its first announcement at PDC 2008 and works with Windows Azure early adopter customers in the Windows Azure TAP
Scott Seely is co-founder of Tech in the Middle, www.techinthemiddle.com, and president of Friseton, LLC,
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
Nov. 23, 2014 07:30 PM EST Reads: 1,691
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nov. 23, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 1,630
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
Nov. 23, 2014 07:45 AM EST Reads: 1,474
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Nov. 22, 2014 10:00 PM EST Reads: 1,401
ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...
Nov. 22, 2014 05:30 PM EST Reads: 1,464
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
Nov. 22, 2014 05:30 PM EST Reads: 1,453
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
Nov. 22, 2014 05:30 PM EST Reads: 1,314
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Nov. 21, 2014 09:15 PM EST Reads: 1,387
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...
Nov. 21, 2014 08:00 PM EST Reads: 1,447
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
Nov. 21, 2014 08:00 PM EST Reads: 1,391
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nov. 21, 2014 07:00 PM EST Reads: 1,297
Focused on this fast-growing market’s needs, Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: VTSS), a leading provider of IC solutions to advance "Ethernet Everywhere" in Carrier, Enterprise and Internet of Things (IoT) networks, introduced its IStaX™ software (VSC6815SDK), a robust protocol stack to simplify deployment and management of Industrial-IoT network applications such as Industrial Ethernet switching, surveillance, video distribution, LCD signage, intelligent sensors, and metering equipment. Leveraging technologies proven in the Carrier and Enterprise markets, IStaX is designed to work ac...
Nov. 20, 2014 09:15 PM EST Reads: 1,379
C-Labs LLC, a leading provider of remote and mobile access for the Internet of Things (IoT), announced the appointment of John Traynor to the position of chief operating officer. Previously a strategic advisor to the firm, Mr. Traynor will now oversee sales, marketing, finance, and operations. Mr. Traynor is based out of the C-Labs office in Redmond, Washington. He reports to Chris Muench, Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Traynor brings valuable business leadership and technology industry expertise to C-Labs. With over 30 years' experience in the high-tech sector, John Traynor has held numerous...
Nov. 20, 2014 06:00 PM EST Reads: 1,341
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
Nov. 20, 2014 04:45 PM EST Reads: 1,143
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
Nov. 20, 2014 01:00 PM EST Reads: 1,587
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
Nov. 20, 2014 12:30 PM EST Reads: 1,795
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
Nov. 18, 2014 09:00 PM EST Reads: 2,018
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
Nov. 18, 2014 08:15 PM EST Reads: 1,575
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Nov. 18, 2014 01:30 PM EST Reads: 2,014
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world. The next @ThingsExpo will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, in Santa Clara, California. Since its launch in 2008, Cloud Expo TV commercials have been aired and CNBC, Fox News Network, and Bloomberg TV. Please enjoy our 2014 commercial.
Nov. 13, 2014 05:00 AM EST Reads: 3,546