I have recently started working with the Microsoft Windows Azure service. Announced at last years PDC, Azure is Microsoft’s “cloud computing” platform akin to Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud. Windows Azure will run in Microsoft data centers and provide a hosting platform to run applications either completely in the cloud, or run services that can interface with on-premise applications.
The big advantage this will provide over traditional web hosting is the ability to scale on demand. At a moments notice you will easily be able to scale a service from running on one server to running on 10, at a price of course, and then scale back to one when you no longer need the extra capacity. This will be very useful for businesses that have cyclic capacity needs, like a flower shop that needs considerably more capacity around Valentines Day then at other times of the year. It’s also great for independent developers allowing them to quickly and cheaply set up a new application and then easily scale it as new customers come along and demand increases.
For .NET developers Azure supports the familiar .NET languages like C# and VB.NET (although Microsoft has indicated that support for languages like PHP may come in the future) and provides tools that integrate into Visual Studio. All of this makes for an easier learning curve for existing .NET developers.
I will be posting more information on Azure as I started getting familiar with the platform.
You can get more information on azure on Microsoft’s Azure Service Platform page.