In this article, we introduce Windows Azure as a platform for building an app for Office or SharePoint. We also briefly enumerate the benefits of choosing Windows Azure in your app and provide resources to get you started.

Introducing Windows Azure

With the new cloud app model for Office and SharePoint, you now have a choice on where to host your apps for Office and SharePoint. While the on-premises option is available, the future is “software as a service” (SaaS) and in this blog post I’d like to share with you why you should consider using Windows Azure as your platform for building apps. Windows Azure is an open and flexible cloud platform built on a global network of Microsoft-managed datacenters that is well-suited as a host for your apps because :

  • You have support and integration for tools you already use, such as Visual Studio, so it takes less time to get your app to market.
  • You only pay for what you use.
  • You can access a broad set of platform services to help you build rich apps.

Let’s look at this in more detail…

The Basics

When you choose to run your app on Windows Azure, in most cases you would run on top of a component of Windows Azure called Windows Azure Web Sites. You can think of Windows Azure Web Sites as Internet Information Server (IIS) and ASP.NET hosted and managed by Microsoft—that means you don’t have to worry about patching or managing the environment and you can concentrate on coding.

Faster to Market

You can get started with Windows Azure today! It’s designed to be super simple and you can have a web site live on the Internet in less than 10 seconds! To see how quick this process is, check out the blog post, Introduction to Building Apps for Office on Windows Azure Web Sites.

Once you have created a web site, export your Windows Azure subscription information to Visual Studio and from there you can publish your apps to the Internet. The learning curve is really that short.

Windows Azure also has excellent support for continuous delivery and team development which is designed to make it easy to push updates to the cloud using familiar tools like Team Foundation Services/GIT/Dropbox etc., and even roll back updates—if necessary.

Economics

So what does Windows Azure cost you?

First, if you’re an MSDN subscriber you already have up to $150 in Windows Azure credits each month so you can potentially develop and test your apps for no additional fee.

NOTE: Also, did I mention we are running a sweepstakes through the end of September?  One lucky MSDN subscriber will win a 2013 Aston Martin V8 Vantage! If you were an MSDN subscriber as of June 2, 2013 and you activate and try your Windows Azure benefit by September 30, 2013—you are eligible! Activate your MSDN benefit now (no credit card required in most countries) to start using Windows Azure for your development and test environment. If you’re not an MSDN subscriber yet—enroll here.

Second, when it comes to production you gain from the economics of scale and the intense competition in this space. Benefit from the commitment Microsoft has to match Amazon Web Services prices on commodity services like compute, storage, and bandwidth. Windows Azure also gives you great price performance compared to other cloud providers and compared to an on-premises environment. Since you don’t have to purchase or maintain infrastructure, you can reduce IT costs and use that money to invest in other areas. Scaling your apps up and down to match demand is easy and you can also define conditions for automatic scaling to keep your costs down. Remember, you only pay for the resources you use!

For system integrators, you can create re-useable solutions on Windows Azure and quickly instantiate that at your next customer implementation. For ISV developers who plan to publish apps in the Office Store, Windows Azure allows you to reduce your risk and increase ROI as your customer base grows seamlessly.

Because Azure is hosted in multiple datacenters across the globe, you can deploy your apps on Windows Azure and be confident that you can deliver consistent performance for your customers.

Flexibility

With Windows Azure, you have a lot of flexibility in how you develop your app and what you want your app to do. In addition to Windows Azure Web Sites, you also have access to a wide range of capabilities. Here are some of the features you can use in your apps:

  • Provide Single Sign-On for users through identity federation with Office 365 or on-premises environments using Windows Azure Active Directory
  • Store data using relational data services with SQL Database and non-relational data storage using Tables and Blobs
  • Gain deeper insights with Big Data analytics using HDInsight
  • Create hybrid solutions by connecting your apps to on-premises assets using messaging services such as Service Bus

SaaS is the future of applications and the combination of apps for Office and SharePoint with Windows Azure are important tools in your toolbox to help you build towards that vision.

Great, so how do I get started?

To start using Windows Azure for your apps for Office and SharePoint, sign up for a free trial or activate your MSDN account.

Here are some other great resources. For more information about building and deploying your apps, check out the Apps for Office and SharePoint Dev Center as well as these video tutorials. To learn how you can use Windows Azure to build a true SaaS experience, take a look at this demo.

We hope you found this post helpful. Feel free to comment on this post and let us know what other details you would like to learn about.

Attribution

Today’s post was brought to you by Tat Yang Koh. Tat is a Product Marketing Manager on the Windows Azure team at Microsoft.