In a nutshell the top features of SQL Azure are:
- Programmability: support for PHP, Native ODBC and managed ADO.net data access
- Relational database management including creation and manipulation of tables, querie, transactions, billable metrics, aggregation functions
- Tool set comprising SQL Azure Account portal, visual studio 2010 and SQL server management studio.
It can be configured quite easily without the need for code sync configuration. There is inbuilt schedule synchronization as well as conflict handling capabilities along with elastic service scales. WCF data services connect to SQL Azure in the back end, using Open Data Protocol for smoother interoperability with full support for .Net, silverlight, AJAX, PHP and Java as well as SQL Server 2008, Excel and SharePoint.
Taking it a step further is SQL Azure Data Sync that allows bi-directional data synchronization between SQL Azure and SQL server on premises. It can synchronize applications on premises and cloud as well as provide offline handling of data.
Azure Platform AppFabric Services
The AppFabric suites comprises
- the service bus for seamless communication between services and applications across networks;
- Access control for secure authentication and to provie a claims based identity bodel with support for authorization using Windows Live ID or other ID. Access control is further split into Security Token Services (STS) to issue tokens and Administration API to program and construct configurations.
These features permit integration of applications in the private and public clouds.
Elastic service bus is designed for operation in scalable data centres to provide access control mechanisms, service registry and messaging with a centralized relay directing traffic across transport protocols and web service standards. The service bus lies atop Windows Communication Foundation with a new set of WCF bindings to connect applications across firewalls and NAT obstacles and includes Net TCP relay binding, Net Event Relay Binding and Net One Way Relay Binding. In summary, The Azure AppFabric is a bridge for on and off premises applications.
Who is it for?
Windows Azure is not the only platform. However, for developers who have years of experience in working on .Net and Visual Studio, it offers an easy way into the cloud where they can leverage their knowledge in Windows software to build scalable and elastic cloud applications. There is flexibility and adaptability allowing developers to either modify existing apps for deployment in the cloud or develop new ones.
The task becomes easier for developers through the Azure marketplace where they can search for and buy or exchange building block components, templates, data sets or completely finished services. Equally, they can contribute and take advantage. The marketplace is a rich mining source for demographic, financial, retail, weather, sports and environmental data along with analytics and visualizations. Ready made building blocks quicken development.
This is just a cursory introduction to Windows Azure and this could be informative to IT students. Azure is quite extended and you would have to delve into its depths to know more.