Over the last few weeks, I found some free time to play around with Windows Azure. Since PDC 2008, I’ve wanted to get hands on with Windows Azure to become even more knowledgeable and gain experience with Microsoft’s cloud stack.

Here you have it: My Windows Azure application at http://holdem.cloudapp.net/Default.aspx. For those of you familiar with poker, you’ll hopefully enjoy it. It provides useful data on various poker scenarios. It’s really useful for anyone who plays poker.

Developing for Windows Azure was really straightforward. All I did was download the Windows Azure Developer Tools and SDK on my Windows 7 machine where I had Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition installed. Development was no different than developing a standard ASP.NET application. The Azure tools simulate a local environment so I can test it easily. After developing and testing on my local box, I published the application at http://www.azure.com. I’m using my PDC 2008 CTP account with 2 web roles.

I spent most of my time on the actual algorithm to make it really fast and accurate. The Azure environment lends itself to applications that scale out. Because I can’t scale up the processor, and the environment ran slower than my local machine, I had to re-think the algorithm to take advantage of Azure computing. It was a fun exercise, and I’m happy with the results! The beauty of Windows Azure is I don’t have to manage the server, worry about it going down, I can scale out easily, etc. I just had to write code. I encourage you to play with Windows Azure as well when you find some free time.

Check it out for yourself! I know the UI isn’t great since I didn’t spend any time on it; I was more focused on the business logic. I hope to find some free time after a few months to develop a slick Silverlight UI to make this really interactive.