Enterprises are more and more dependent on their specialized internal Line of Business (LOB) applications than ever before. Naturally, the more software they leverage on-premises, the more infrastructure they need manage. It’s frequently the case that our customers simply can’t scale up their hardware purchases and operational staff as fast as internal demand for software requires. The result is that getting new or enhanced applications in the hands of business users becomes slower and more expensive every day.
Being able to quickly deliver applications in a rapidly changing business environment while maintaining high standards of corporate security is a challenge that can be met right now by moving enterprise LOBs out into the cloud and leveraging Azure’s Access Control services. In fact, we’re seeing many of our customers (both large and small) see huge benefits from moving their web based business applications such as corporate help desks, expense tracking, travel portals, timesheets, and more to Windows Azure.
- Cost Reduction
- Time to market
Here’s a sketch of how many Windows Azure Enterprise LOBs are being architected and deployed:
- Web Role – this will host the core of the application. Each web role is a virtual machine hosting an application written in ASP.NET (or optionally php, or node.js). The number of web roles can be scaled up or down as needed to handle peak and non-peak traffic loads. Many Java based applications are also being deployed to Windows Azure with a little more effort.
- Database – every modern web application needs to store data. SQL Azure databases look and act exactly like their on-premise siblings but are fault tolerant and have data redundancy built in.
- Access Control – this service is necessary to establish federated identity between the cloud hosted application and an enterprise’s corporate network. It works in conjunction with a secure token service (STS) that is hosted on-premises to establish the corporate user’s identity and credentials. The source code for an on-premises STS is provided in the Windows Azure training kit and merely needs to be customized for the corporate environment and published on a publicly accessible corporate web site. Once set up, corporate users see a near seamless single sign-on experience.
- Reporting – businesses live and die by their reports and SQL Azure Reporting, based on SQL Server Reporting 2008 R2, can serve up reports with tables, charts, maps, gauges, and more. These reports can be accessed from the Windows Azure Portal, through a web browser, or directly from applications.
- Service Bus (optional) – if deep integration with other applications and systems is needed, the service bus is the answer. It enables secure service layer communication between applications hosted behind firewalls in on-premises or partner datacenters and applications hosted inside Windows Azure. The Service Bus provides the ability to securely expose just the information and services that are necessary to create a simpler, more secure architecture than opening up a full blown VPN.
- Data Sync (optional) – in cases where the data stored in the cloud needs to be shared internally, establishing a secure one-way or two-way data-sync connection between the on-premises and off-premises databases is a perfect option. It can be very granular, allowing us to specify exactly what tables and columns to synchronize, setup filters to sync only a subset of rows, set the conflict resolution policy for two-way sync, and specify how frequently data should be synchronized
These links point to online Windows Azure training labs where you can learn more about the individual ingredients described above. (Note: The entire Windows Azure Training Kit can also be downloaded for offline use.)
| ||Windows Azure (16 labs) |
Windows Azure is an internet-scale cloud computing and services platform hosted in Microsoft data centers, which provides an operating system and a set of developer services which can be used individually or together. It gives developers the choice to build web applications; applications running on connected devices, PCs, or servers; or hybrid solutions offering the best of both worlds. New or enhanced applications can be built using existing skills with the Visual Studio development environment and the .NET Framework. With its standards-based and interoperable approach, the services platform supports multiple internet protocols, including HTTP, REST, SOAP, and plain XML
| ||SQL Azure (7 labs) |
Microsoft SQL Azure delivers on the Microsoft Data Platform vision of extending the SQL Server capabilities to the cloud as web-based services, enabling you to store structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data.
| ||Windows Azure Services (9 labs) |
As applications collaborate across organizational boundaries, ensuring secure transactions across disparate security domains is crucial but difficult to implement. Windows Azure Services provides hosted authentication and access control using powerful, secure, standards-based infrastructure.
See my Windows Azure Resource Guide for more guidance on how to get started, including links web portals, training kits, samples, and blogs related to Windows Azure.