Azure is Microsoft's cloud computing operating system announced at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in October 2008.
Windows Azure supports hosting applications and/or data at Microsoft data centers accessible via the Internet through open, cross-platform protocols such as REST and SOAP. Offloading an application's management and maintenance requirements to the data centers (the "cloud provider") can result in significant savings on operational costs, enabling an organization to focus on its specific business value rather than on IT infrastructure.
With Windows Azure, subscribers manage the runtime behavior of their applications via a browser-accessible portal that exposes a configuration and monitoring interface. This interface is used to direct the underlying Windows Azure fabric controller, the layer that ties together the potentially massive number of machines that can be brought to bear to provide on-demand scalability for the application.
Windows Azure is a developer-oriented environment, with support in Visual Studio .NET for building
Windows Azure also includes a simple, RESTful (and hence client-agnostic) storage structure for three specific types of data:
To support developing cloud-based applications, Windows Azure includes the Azure Services Platform, which provides a number of services.
The initial CTP release includes:
In addition to the above, see the following links for more information on Azure:
MSDN Developer Conference (Boston - Jan 22, 2009)
Azure Community Technology Preview (CTP)
Microsoft Cloud Computing Tools (MSDN)