What is Windows Azure?- Uses, benefits & features

This article talks about Windows Azure which is actually an operating system and a complete platform for hosting cloud computing applications and is served by Microsoft. Know what exactly is Windows Azure and explore its uses, benefits & features

Windows is one product that rules the world and makes its creators at Microsoft rule the world. Just as people say that the winner needs to keep running, Microsoft releases from time to time new products and services that make the market spin. Windows 7 was not released much ago and Microsoft released its cloud service called Windows Azure. While most desktop computer users did not pay any attention because at that time, it was the software developers which paid more attention due to the ease of use it provided to the developers to make new applications which could use the cloud services provided by the Software behemoth, Microsoft. However, the first question that comes to mind is: "What does the word 'cloud' mean when talking about the computers and internet?" So let us first see what the word "cloud computing" means.

What is cloud computing?

If you have ever seen any of the networking books where they show the internet, you would have noticed that in most of the cases, the representation of the internet is a figure that looks like a "cloud". The internet has typically been shown as something very obvious but unknown at the same time. Cloud computing makes this notion even more concrete and precise. Cloud computing is generally a way of running applications on your server which utilize the services available to the computer (or server) on the internet. That said, the cloud computing is a type of "resource-on-demand" type of service. When you use a cloud computing service from one of the cloud storage providers and run an application, depending on the type of application, it will automatically save your files over the internet to a place which is given to you by your 'cloud computing provider'.

In a cloud computing environment, all the resources including databases, file hosting space, computing power and more request handling capacity come from the cloud which seems to be infinite. The resources become available to you on demand. Windows Azure platform is one of those platforms which make use of the Windows Azure Operating System and the Microsoft Cloud services together to get you the internet computing platform of your wish.

When do we use cloud computing?

Cloud computing is used when a person or an organization is in immediate need of huge resources, which will not remain in demand forever. One of the biggest example of this case are the websites like Amazon and eBay. On the holidays, such as Christmas, a huge number of people come onto these websites to purchase gifts for their loved ones. The traffic on these websites on such occasions is usually about fifty to hundred times. So the websites on those occasions will need about one hundred times more capacity and resources than on normal days. But this type of traffic does not remain forever. Hence to buy all the hardware needed to handle such a traffic is not the best solution. Hence on those occasions, these companies will buy extra processing and storage capacities in form of cloud computing services.

What is Windows Azure?

We have already mentioned it - Windows Azure is an Operating System. Now why people call it a "platform" is that it has all the functionalities of the cloud computing built in. There is a minimal need for you to configure things on your own. Windows Azure development does it all for you in a much easier way. Windows Azure was made by Microsoft for utilizing their server farms when are not using them to their full capacity. The changes they made to the Windows platform later made what is not called as Windows Azure.

Windows Azure has all the typical abilities of the cloud computing infrastructure. This involves the following features:

1. Autonomic computing: The term 'autonomic' means something which can do the work, all on its own. The biggest problem with the computers is that when things go berserk and out of order, you need a team of very skilled people to solve the problems. Autonomic computing means that the computer is able to do some self healing. You can take it this way: If a hard disk has started responding extremely slow and is thus making the performance drop too much, then the autonomic computing feature will help you to recognize immediately which hard disk among the huge lot is performing bad and diagnose the problem and if the software knows how to solve the problem, it automatically does so. Autonomic computing thus makes the servers and hence your cloud application much more reliable and robust.

2. Client–server model - A client server model is one of the most famous models and particularly famous in the developer community. In this model, the structure of anything is simple. There is one computer (the client) requesting the service and the other providing the service. This has been one of the most famous models upon which thousands and thousands of software have been written. The Internet is the best example for this model and cloud computing does the same.

Windows Azure does the job by simplifying the complicated architecture of the demand based computing on top of client server model, along with easy programmability which makes the life of a developer much easy. This is a big plus point in Windows Azure when compared to other cloud computing services.

3. Grid computing - Grid computing is a computing platform which in use by a lot of organizations where they create a Grid of servers which act like a loosely gripped components which make the resources available as per the demand. Grid computing architectures are also autonomous in behavior by default. Cloud computing reflects the idea of distributing a very large job into smaller pieces and then allocating all those pieces of workload to smaller computers. Grid computing architecture is also supportive to this demand but cloud computing is the superset in terms of facilities being offered when compared to grid computing. Windows Azure gives you the freedom and option to use the grid computing services without too much hassle.

4. Utility Computing - The computing resources such as processing power and storage capacity are used as metered resources. What we mean by this is that the more you use the resource the more you have to pay for it, which means that all resources become available on a pay per use basis.

While this is not always the case, it depends on the agreement between the cloud service provider and the application development company which is utilizing the cloud computing facility which dictates how the resources offered by the cloud which seems to be infinite in every way.

While cloud computing happens to be the merger of all sorts of technologies, its not one of them. It is all of them at one time and still none of them. Windows Azure makes sure that you do not have to worry about the similarities and differences when programming your application for the cloud.

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Author: maha krishnan13 Mar 2014 Member Level: Bronze   Points : 2

Hi Gyandeep, That was very useful resource collected by you,thanks for sharing. One who is on research on windows azure will be very much profited once he/she gets through the article. Being one among them ,it was very much beneficial. The resource mainly cleared some basic question's about Cloud Computing.

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