Windows Azure is a range or services from Microsoft that are hosted in their data centres and made available across the Internet. The services that Windows Azure offers are generally a level deeper than what is provided by a service like Office 365. Windows Azure for example provides the ability to create and host virtual machines, create and publish web server, create mobile device platforms and more.
Why is this important to a business? At its most basic it continues to demonstrate the migration of much of the existing technology products to cloud based services. More and more vendors are electing to develop their platforms on a web platform like Windows Azure because it provides them a better way to deliver solutions to their customers which making it easier for them to maintain their product. Still have doubts about the shift to the cloud? Windows Azure recently exceeded US$1Billion in revenue and is one of Microsoft’s fastest growing products, with subscriptions to the service growing by over 48 percent in the last six months.
As well as software providers building their applications on Windows Azure, customers are using Windows Azure to run corporate programs, websites and applications from Microsoft’s data centres rather than spending on their own servers, storage and staff to maintain them. Windows Azure provides automatic operating system and service patching, built in network load balancing and resiliency to hardware failure.
Windows Azure also provides the ability to easily scale an application to any number of servers. For example, if you have a seasonal website that experiences high demand during a certain time of the year, Windows Azure allows you to easily add additional servers to cope with the increased demand. Best of all, you only pay for what you use. With multiple datacenters around the world, Windows Azure allows the deployment of applications close to end users.
Many businesses are electing to use Windows Azure to store their big data and then mine it using business intelligence tools (such as Excel) without the need to maintain all the infrastructure themselves. It is utility computing at its best.
You may not think that Windows Azure is for you, but chances are more and more people you deal with are using cloud platforms like Windows Azure to run their business more efficiently. So don’t write off products like Windows Azure that quickly, take a moment and have a think about what Windows Azure may be able to provide your business. You’ll probably find that there is something that you could take advantage of, if not now certainly in the near future.