Have you heard about Windows Azure? I am sure you have if you subscribe to MSDN magazine, have gone to PDC events, developed .NET applications on the Microsoft platform, or talked with Microsoft Partners about their thoughts on this platform. It promises to be the service in the cloud for what we call cloud computing. The "cloud" or "cloud computing" simply is a large (massive) data center that contains many server computers that are accessible via a standard internet connection. This data center hosts applications available to all through a subscription. Cloud computing drove some well-known business terminology like Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Platform as a service (PaaS) and the most common Software as a Service (SaaS).
Some of the major players in this space are Salesforce.com (CRM, Force.com, AppExchange), Microsoft Online Services (CRM, Exchange Online, Office Live Meeting, Office 14, Office Communications Online, SharePoint Online), Amazon web services (Amazon DevPlay, SimpleDB), Google Services (Google Apps) and Zoho (productivity & collaboration applications). When reviewing what the offerings are all about I can only denote one thing. The service offerings essentially provides users or companies the ability to store their intellectual properties (content) on the provider's scalable servers and are accessible through an internet connection. This gives the provider a larger profit margin and the customer a lower operating cost. That lower operating cost achieve the flexibility and hassle free Information Technology (IT) overhead of buying, maintaining and integrating with third-party applications.
So, how do we leverage this platform? Well the above vendors want their developer community to build cost effective applications that will attract end-customers. Developers are in a unique position to create applications that they can charge for and that their end-customers can use without the concern of maintaining a server infrastructure environment. In addition, they are not as concerned about the marketing of their service offerings because they have the branding of the above players to do all the marketing work for them.
So is Windows Azure the best platform for .NET professionals. Absolutely! That is because the platform allows .NET professional developers to create rich applications using well-known tools and publish them on servers they do not need to license and maintain. The only issue is when Windows Azure will get off the beta label and into wide scale availability. Microsoft is touting the end of 2009. We will see if that holds true. Otherwise, Salesforce.com here I come!