For those that enjoy learning about cutting-edge technologies: Microsoft has just announced the Beta 2 release of Windows Server AppFabric, that includes Workflow Services.
In a nutshell: Azure is Microsoft’s platform for building cloud applications, including workflow applications.
Windows Azure is an operating system (online service).
Microsoft SQL Azure is a fully relational cloud database.
AppFabric is a development platform to connect cloud services and on-premises applications
The Windows Azure Platform is an Internet-scale cloud computing and services platform hosted in Microsoft data centres. The Windows Azure Platform includes the foundation layer of Windows Azure as well as a set of developer services which can be used individually or together.
The Windows Azure Platform comprises the following developer services:
Windows Azure is the cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure Platform. Windows Azure provides you on-demand compute & storage to host, scale, and manage web applications and services on the internet in Microsoft data centres.
Windows Azure platform AppFabric
Windows Azure platform AppFabric is a set of Microsoft-hosted, highly scalable, developer-oriented services that provide key building blocks required by many cloud-based and cloud-aware applications. AppFabric provides applications with a common infrastructure to name, discover, expose, secure, and orchestrate Web services, while enabling developers to focus on their application logic rather than building and deploying their own cloud-based infrastructure services.
Microsoft SQL Azure extends SQL Server capabilities to the cloud. SQL Azure offers a relational database service called Microsoft SQL Azure Database. Using SQL Azure, you can easily provision and deploy relational database solutions. Benefits include manageability, high availability, scalability, a familiar development model, and a relational data model.
Microsoft and the future of the cloud
The debate around the pros and cons of “Software as a service”, “on-demand” services and “cloud applications” will continue.
Most consumers already use cloud services, even though they don’t use the term. Gmail, iTunes, Hotmail, online banking, Twitter, Facebook are all applications that run in the cloud.
Microsoft has spent more than $1 billion to build gigantic data centres to run Azure and faces formidable competition from companies like Google and Amazon that have already become synonymous with delivering services over the Internet.
About 30 companies have already launched internal Azure cloud services, including Coca-Cola and Domino’s Pizza, both of which are using it to run their ordering system.
Whether their strategy will work remains to be seen, since Microsoft trails Salesforce.com, Amazon.com, Google and others in entering the cloud, which Merrill-Lynch & Co. has estimated will be a $95 billion market by 2011.
There is not much information about Azure in the web, and even less about the Azure workflow services.
What is new is that cloud platforms like Windows Azure will allow any company, small or large, to build workflow services that run in the cloud publicly or privately.