|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,
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
Dec. 3, 2016 09:30 PM EST Reads: 1,595
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
Dec. 3, 2016 06:15 PM EST Reads: 1,508
"IoT is going to be a huge industry with a lot of value for end users, for industries, for consumers, for manufacturers. How can we use cloud to effectively manage IoT applications," stated Ian Khan, Innovation & Marketing Manager at Solgeniakhela, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 3, 2016 05:30 PM EST Reads: 4,040
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
Dec. 3, 2016 05:15 PM EST Reads: 2,136
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Onalytica. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
Dec. 3, 2016 05:15 PM EST Reads: 1,998
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
Dec. 3, 2016 03:15 PM EST Reads: 3,222
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to simplify and streamline our lives by automating routine tasks that distract us from our goals. This promise is based on the ubiquitous deployment of smart, connected devices that link everything from industrial control systems to automobiles to refrigerators. Unfortunately, comparatively few of the devices currently deployed have been developed with an eye toward security, and as the DDoS attacks of late October 2016 have demonstrated, this oversight can ...
Dec. 3, 2016 02:45 PM EST Reads: 700
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
Dec. 3, 2016 02:45 PM EST Reads: 522
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, discussed how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to impr...
Dec. 3, 2016 02:15 PM EST Reads: 6,955
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
Dec. 3, 2016 02:00 PM EST Reads: 475
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Dec. 3, 2016 01:30 PM EST Reads: 2,130
Businesses and business units of all sizes can benefit from cloud computing, but many don't want the cost, performance and security concerns of public cloud nor the complexity of building their own private clouds. Today, some cloud vendors are using artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify cloud deployment and management. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ajay Gulati, Co-founder and CEO of ZeroStack, will discuss how AI can simplify cloud operations. He will cover the following topics: why clou...
Dec. 3, 2016 01:15 PM EST Reads: 629
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
Dec. 3, 2016 01:00 PM EST Reads: 1,875
"ReadyTalk is an audio and web video conferencing provider. We've really come to embrace WebRTC as the platform for our future of technology," explained Dan Cunningham, CTO of ReadyTalk, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at WebRTC Summit at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 3, 2016 01:00 PM EST Reads: 328
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, drew together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established compa...
Dec. 3, 2016 12:45 PM EST Reads: 738
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
Dec. 3, 2016 12:45 PM EST Reads: 1,955
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
Dec. 3, 2016 12:15 PM EST Reads: 1,511
We are always online. We access our data, our finances, work, and various services on the Internet. But we live in a congested world of information in which the roads were built two decades ago. The quest for better, faster Internet routing has been around for a decade, but nobody solved this problem. We’ve seen band-aid approaches like CDNs that attack a niche's slice of static content part of the Internet, but that’s it. It does not address the dynamic services-based Internet of today. It does...
Dec. 3, 2016 11:30 AM EST Reads: 855
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
Dec. 3, 2016 11:30 AM EST Reads: 2,096
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Dec. 3, 2016 11:15 AM EST Reads: 1,643