Recently, in October 2010, at our Professional Developers Conference (PDC) we made some exciting roadmap announcements regarding Windows Azure AppFabric, and we have already gotten very positive feedback regarding this roadmap from both customers and analysts (Gartner Names Windows Azure AppFabric "A Strategic Core of Microsoft's Cloud Platform").

As result of these announcements we wanted to have a series of blog posts that will give a refreshed introduction to the Windows Azure AppFabric, its vision and roadmap.

Until the announcements at PDC we presented Windows Azure AppFabric as a set of technologies that enable customers to bridge applications in a secure manner across on-premises and the cloud. This is all still true, but with the recent announcements we now broaden this, and talk about Windows Azure AppFabric as being a comprehensive cloud middleware platform that raises the level of abstraction when developing applications on the Windows Azure Platform.

But first, let's begin by explaining what exactly it is we are trying to solve.

Businesses of all sizes experience tremendous cost and complexity when extending and customizing their applications today.  Given the constraints of the economy, developers must find new ways to do more with less but at the same time simultaneously find new innovative ways to keep up with the changing needs of the business.  This has led to the emergence of composite applications as a solution development approach.  Instead of significantly modifying existing applications and systems, and relying solely on the packaged software vendor when there is a new business need, developers are finding it a lot cheaper and more flexible to build these composite applications on top of, and surrounding, existing applications and systems.

Developers are now also starting to evaluate newer cloud-based platforms, such as the Windows Azure Platform, as a way to gain greater efficiency and agility. The promised benefits of cloud development are impressive, by enabling greater focus on the business and not in running the infrastructure.

As noted earlier, customers already have a very large base of existing heterogeneous and distributed business applications spanning different platforms, vendors and technologies.  The use of cloud adds complexity to this environment, since the services and components used in cloud applications are inherently distributed across organizational boundaries.  Understanding all of the components of your application - and managing them across the full application lifecycle - is tremendously challenging. 

Finally, building cloud applications often introduces new programming models, tools and runtimes, making it difficult for customers to enhance, or transition from, their existing server-based applications.

Windows Azure AppFabric is meant to address these challenges through 3 main concepts:

1.       Middleware Services - pre-built higher-level services that developers can use when developing their applications, instead of the developers having to build these capabilities on their own. This reduces the complexity of building the application and saves a lot of time for the developer.

2.       Building Composite Applications - capabilities that enable you to assemble, deploy and manage a composite application that is made up of several different components as a single logical entity.

3.       Scale-out Application Infrastructure - capabilities that makes it seamless to get the benefit of cloud, such as: elastic scale, high availability, density, multi-tenancy, etc'.

So, with Windows Azure AppFabric you don't just get the common advantages of cloud computing such as not having to own and manage the infrastructure, but you also get pre-built services, a development model, tools, and management capabilities that help you build and run your application in the right way and enjoy more of the great benefits of cloud computing such as elastic scale, high-availability, multi-tenancy, high-density, etc'.

Tune in to the future blog posts in this series to learn more about these capabilities and how they help address the challenges noted above.

Other places to learn more on Windows Azure AppFabric are:

 

If you haven't already taken advantage of our free trial offer make sure to click on the image below and start using Windows Azure AppFabric already today!

Please leave your comments and questions in the comments section below.

Itai Raz, Product Manager