I know, I know. You are probably thinking that this question has been answered so many time. It has, yet it remains one of the toughest questions I have to answer on a regular basis.
The reason behind this level of difficulty boils down to trying to pack all that is Windows Azure into a brief meaningful statement. When I try to answer this question, I get lost in its vast awesomeness! Unfortunately, in order to help me target my answers, I usually answer this question by a question like “What does your system do?” or “Can tell me about what got you interested in Windows Azure?”
Obviously, these aren’t the answers you are looking for. But it’s hard for me to shape an appropriate answer without knowing the angle you’re coming from. Are you a curious developer or a business owner looking for an opportunity?
Not too long ago, I mentored at the Montreal Startup Weekend and I was fascinated by the diversity of ideas that were buzzing around. Each team had different skill sets and many were interested in learning more about Windows Azure. It got me thinking about how I could describe Windows Azure in a generic way, which would enable further discussions targeted at the team’s goals. As I previously mentioned, Windows Azure is an enabler that’s composed of a vast collection of services. Conversations easily get sidetracked because of all the options and we lose lots of precious time exploring them.
So I came up with this answer, “Windows Azure is an ecosystem of services that can be leveraged to build reliable solutions. What are you working on?” It’s generic enough to allow me to assess what angle you’re coming from and we can concentrate our conversation around your project.
From a business stand point, Windows Azure can potentially save lots of headaches and resources. It’s a platform that allows us to host software and focus our energy on the core business. For example, by using the built-in auto scaling features of Windows Azure Web Sites, the Web Site can handle traffic spikes generated by sudden interest in the advertised services. Windows Azure will automatically scale the Web Site to handle the unexpected load, then it will scale back to reduce the overall costs of operation. This ability is crucial for businesses because it means that Web Sites remain available for potential customers and we only pay for the resources that were consumed during the traffic spike. Traditionally, we have to overprovision all year round so that we can handle these scenarios. Windows Azure allows us to pay for the minimum resources required for our software to be available and responsive at all times.
Offload IT costs and responsibilities to Windows Azure and build value for your customers.
From a developer stand point, Windows Azure is a candy store! It allows us to create databases at the click of a button, it scales storage to our needs and provides us with tooling that supports us throughout our development efforts. In the interest of time, I would love to point out the official Windows Azure documentation. It does an amazing job at surfacing services and options that are available to developers. Keep in mind that new services surface regularly and being familiar with the services allows us to offload a lot of work and support to the Windows Azure platform. For example, we can schedule daily backups for our Windows Azure SQL Databases. Setting this up saves time that we can put towards developing that new feature that we’ve been dying to get our hands on.
Stop getting called in at all hours of the night because a server didn’t reboot properly. Let Windows Azure worry about the infrastructure while we concentrate on delivering value.
Windows Azure is an ecosystem of services & possibilities
So what do you think? Does the above explain Windows Azure simply and succinctly? If it was you who was asking me the question, and I answered you as such, would you feel more confident in what Windows Azure can do for you? Let’s converse in the Canadian Developer Connection group on LinkedIn and flush it out further.