Introduction to Windows Azure AppFabric blog posts series – Part 2: The Middleware Services - Windows Azure AppFabric Team Blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs

Introduction to Windows Azure AppFabric blog posts series – Part 2: The Middleware Services

Introduction to Windows Azure AppFabric blog posts series – Part 2: The Middleware Services

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In the previous post we discussed the 3 main concepts that make up Windows Azure AppFabric:

1.       Middleware Services - pre-built services that provide valuable capabilities developers can use when developing applications. This reduces the time and complexity when building the application, and allows the developer to concentrate on the core application logic.

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 make it seamless to get the benefit of the cloud, such as: elastic scale, high availability, high density, multi-tenancy, etc.


In this post we will start discussing the first concept, the pre-built services we provide as part of the Middleware Services.

The Middleware Services include 5 services:

1.       Service Bus - provides secure connectivity and messaging

2.       Access Control - provides identity and access control capabilities to web applications and services

3.       Caching - provides a distributed, in-memory application cache

4.       Integration - provides common integration and business user enablement capabilities

5.       Composite App - enables building applications that are made up of a composite of services, components, web services, workflows, and existing applications

These services are open and interoperable across languages (.NET, Java, Ruby, PHP...) and give developers a powerful pre-built "class library" for next-generation cloud applications. Developers can use each of these as stand-alone services, or combine them as part of a broader composite solution.

Focus on Service Bus and Access Control

In this post we cover the Service Bus and the Access Control services which are already available as production services with full Service Level Agreements (SLA). The Caching service is available as a Community Technology Preview (CTP), and the Integration and Composite App services will also be released in CTPs later in 2011.

Service Bus

The Service Bus provides a solution for connectivity and messaging.  Connectivity is about enabling connections between different components and services. Once you are able to connect the different components, Messaging enables you to support different messaging protocols and patterns.

The Service Bus facilitates the construction of distributed and disconnected applications in the cloud, as well as hybrid applications composed of both on-premises and the cloud services. In addition, the Service Bus provides these capabilities in a secure manner. You do not have to open your firewall or install anything inside your network. It also removes the need for the developer to worry about delivery assurance, reliable messaging and scale.

The image below illustrates the central role of the Service Bus as it connects hybrid cloud and on-premises environments using different protocols and patterns, as well as initiating direct connections between two different on-premises endpoints for increased efficiency:

As noted earlier, the Service Bus is a production service, supported by a full SLA. But this is a good opportunity to mention our LABS/Preview environment.

The LABS/Preview Environment: Feedback Wanted

In addition to the production services that are supported by the full SLA, the LABS/Preview  environment gives you a preview of the enhancements and capabilities we are planning to add to the production services in the near future. We want to get your feedback through this environment. Make sure to provide us with feedback on our CTPs in the Windows Azure AppFabric CTP Forum.

It is important to note that the services in this environment are free to use and have no SLA.

For instance, in the latest CTP release of Service Bus we are showcasing improvements and enhancements that will be released in the next update of the production service, such as: Durable Messaging, Load Balancing, and improved management. You can find more details here.

The next update to the production service, which will include these capabilities, will be in a few months.

For a more in-depth and technical overview of the Service Bus, please use the following resources:

Access Control

The Access Control service provides identity and access control solutions for web applications and services. The service provides integration with standards-based identity providers, including enterprise directories such as Active Directory, and web identities such as Windows Live ID, Google, Yahoo! and Facebook.

Instead of the user having to create a new user and password for each application, and instead of the developer having to write different sets of code to support all these different identities, the service enables the developer to write the code once to work with the Access Control service, and the service takes care of federating with all these different identities.

Identity and access control are complicated to implement in any application, but if you want to support various types of identities across both on-premises and cloud it becomes even more complicated. The image below illustrates how the Access Control service abstracts all this logic from the application itself, allowing the developer to focus on the application logic:

Like the Service Bus, the Access Control is a production service supported by an SLA.

In the latest CTP release of the Access Control service we added powerful capabilities such as: integration with Windows Identity Foundation (WIF), out-of-the-box support for Windows Live ID, Google ID, Yahoo! and Facebook, out-of-the-box support for ADFS v2.0, etc. You can find more details here.

The next update to the production Access Control service that will include all the enhancements will also be in a few months.

For a more in-depth and technical overview of the Access Control service, please use the following resources:


If you want to check out our CTP services in the LABS/Preview environment and get a preview of what is planned to be released in the near future, just visit, sign up and get started.


As illuminated in this post, the Windows Azure AppFabric Middleware Services help make the work of a developer a lot easier by providing ready-to-use services that solve complicated problems. 

Tune in to the next post in this series to learn about the other Middleware Services and how they also help solve the challenges faced by developers.

Other places to learn more on Windows Azure AppFabric are:

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

Finally, please leave your comments and questions in the comments section below.

Itai Raz, Product Manager


  • This is shaping up to be an excellent series of posts.  Your description of each service nicely sums up the capabilities and intentions, and the links to other content is a great idea.

    I'm looking forward to future posts.

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