Cloud computing is rapidly ascending into the mainstream as a viable alternative to traditional on-premises architectures. Putting an application into *the cloud* is not as abstract is the term might sound. Deploying to the cloud is a term for allowing a company to host your applications and/or databases in a massive data warehouse, much like today’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) host web applications on our behalf. Cloud-based technologies, such as the Windows Azure Platform from Microsoft, bring an array of benefits, as detailed below.


Why Windows Azure?

The Windows Azure Platform provides a cloud-based solution for your applications and databases, giving a low-cost, highly available hosting with massive on-demand scale. Having Microsoft deal with the nuances of unpredictable traffic loads, failover, replication, and updates is an attractive solution for many customers, who can then turn their attention to their core business. Many companies are finding significant cost savings as a result.

One prime example is Kelley Blue Book, a premier provider of vehicle pricing information to consumers, automotive dealers, governments, and the finance and insurance industries. The company developed its information-rich, high-traffic Web site using the Microsoft® .NET Framework 3.5 and supports it with two hosted data centers. In an effort to reduce hosting costs and ease management of its infrastructure, Kelley Blue Book decided to host and manage its Web site using a software-plus-services model. After evaluating software-plus-services solutions, the company implemented the Windows Azure Platform, which proved to be a straightforward process. As a result, Kelley Blue Book is able to reduce capital expenditures for new hardware, increase its competitive advantage by focusing on delivering new features, saving $100,000 annually in hosting costs, and use IT resources more strategically.


A familiar development experience

The Windows Azure Platform gives developers a well-known development environment, with Visual Studio project templates, and a Software Development Kit (SDK) that yields a local simulation environment for testing your applications without having to physically push them out to the cloud. These items empower developers to quickly create and test applications and databases as candidates to publish to the cloud, from the convenience of an IDE they are already comfortable using.


Getting up to speed

Learning about the Windows Azure Platform is fairly straightforward, thanks to the freely available set of presentations, labs, demos, and sample applications in the Windows Azure Platform Training kit. Content spans all parts of the Windows Azure Platform, from Windows Azure to SQL Azure to the AppFabric. There are also links to all prerequisites, as well as links to additional online resources to complete the learning cycle.


Deploying Applications on Windows Azure

Windows Azure features a powerful, yet simple deployment model. By focusing on your application and abstracting away the infrastructure details, you can deploy almost any app with minimal fuss. You can watch Microsoft Technical Evangelist Ryan Dunn demo how easy this is by using list sharing and management application. You can download the source for the application from the site as well.

If you are ready to get started with the Windows Azure Platform, visit the main site today, where you will find everything you need to get started building applications for the cloud.