I just wanted to sum up what the Microsoft Azure platform is.
But before that, just to highlight that the Azure Services Platform is currently a CTP, kind of a very early 'BETA,' available only as a limited Community Technology Preview (CTP) to attendees at the PDC 2008 (Professional Developers Conference). In the near future, it will also be available to more customers & partners. The release date is not fixed yet, but in any case, we are currently in a very early stage. The point today is that it's just been discovered to the public.
So, the Azure Services Platform represents a significant advancement for Microsoft’s cloud computing strategy. By bringing the power of Microsoft’s operating systems, servers, frameworks and developer tools to the cloud, Azure makes it possible for developers to create applications and services that run in the cloud or to create web, mobile, or hybrid applications that extend the value of on-premises applications.
The Azure Services Platform is comprised of an operating system and a set of developer services that can be used individually or together:
Windows Azure, previously known as “Red Dog”, is a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting and service management environment for the Azure Services Platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage Internet or cloud applications. Windows Azure supports a consistent development experience through its integration with Visual Studio. In the early stages of CTP, .NET managed applications built using Visual Studio will be supported. Windows Azure will be an open platform that supports both Microsoft and non-Microsoft languages and environments. Windows Azure welcomes third party tools and languages such as Eclipse, Ruby, PHP, and Python.
Keep in mind that Windows Azure is really a 'cloud layer' over many Windows Servers (hundreds/thousands) situated in Microsoft's data centers, and those servers are really internally running Windows Server 2008 and HyperV. So, Windows Azure is not a new real/classic operating system. It is "Windows in the cloud".
Microsoft .NET Services, previously known as “Zurich”, make developing loosely coupled cloud-based applications easier. .NET Services includes access control to help secure your applications, a service bus for communicating across applications and services, and hosted workflow execution. These hosted services allow you to easily create federated applications that span from on-premises environments to the cloud.
Microsoft SQL Services extends the capabilities of Microsoft SQL Server data platform to the cloud for storing, processing and analyzing all data types – from unstructured to structured data. SQL Services offers rich set of integrated services like database, reporting, analytics, data synchronization and integration in the cloud, the first of these services available is database service called Microsoft SQL Data Services (SDS). Previously know as SQL Server Data Services (SSDS), SQL Data Services offers highly scalable database service in the cloud for storing and processing large volumes of data over REST and SOAP web protocols. This service is built on robust SQL Server database and Windows Server technologies, providing high availability, security and data protection.
Live Services, previously known as “Live Platform Services”, is a set of building blocks within the Azure Services Platform for handling user data and application resources. Live Services provides developers with an easy on-ramp to build rich social applications and experiences, across a range of digital devices that can connect with one of the largest audiences on the Web.
Microsoft SharePoint Services & Dynamics CRM Services
In the future, developers will have access to SharePoint & CRM functionality for collaboration and building stronger customer relationships. With the flexibility to use familiar developer tools like Visual Studio, developers will be able to rapidly build applications that utilize SharePoint and CRM capabilities as developer services for their own applications. Developers can expect a breadth of SharePoint & CRM capabilities across the spectrum of on-premises, online & the Azure Services Platform.
Several interesting documents: