The Windows Azure platform is a set of cloud services and technologies - Windows Azure, Microsoft SQL Azure, AppFabric, and the Windows Azure Marketplace - that your developers can use to more efficiently create web services, manage data, and even increase your agency's Open Gov transparency. Scalability and automated application deployment and management, combined with a consistent, familiar user experience across devices, can mean faster distribution and reduced IT costs.
An operating system as an online service
Windows Azure is a flexible, scalable operating system - delivered as an online service - that functions as the testing and development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure supports multiple programming languages, including .NET, PHP, Ruby, Java, and Python. Developers can build with their preferred programming tools and Microsoft Visual Studio that run on both Microsoft and third-party web servers. Because it leverages your developers' and IT team's existing skills and can easily scale up or down as needed, Windows Azure can help maximize your in-house resources and trim the cost of creating new applications.
A relational database in the cloud
SQL Azure provides data services, including a relational database, reporting, and data synchronization with mobile users, remote offices, and business partners. SQL Azure database, built on SQL server technologies, is a cloud-based relational database hosted by Microsoft data centers. Serving both local and cloud-based applications, and allowing secure access from multiple locations and devices, SQL Azure integrates with your existing packaged line-of-business applications as well as toolsets for building custom web applications. In addition, SQL Azure lets you consolidate multiple data sources in the cloud and helps eliminate the costs of buying, administering, and updating on-site servers - you pay only for the database consumed. At the same time, you enjoy the benefits of high availability, fault tolerance, and robust disaster recovery, without added expense.
Connections without boundaries
Windows Azure platform AppFabric helps developers build and connect applications and web services in the cloud or on-premises. Its web-based Service Bus simplifies connections across your firewall for flexible, secure integration that uses your existing on-premises investments while making the most of the resources in the cloud. The AppFabric Access Control Service helps you build in federated authorization, safely allowing external users, such as citizens and partner organizations, to access selected portions of your agency's cloud resources - without the need for custom security programming.
Scalability and elasticity to handle changing workloads - and the unexpected
Unlimited scalability means that your agency can be prepared for almost anything. In addition to your day-to-day workloads, your agency may experience cyclical demand spikes - such as voter registration surges or seasonal license renewals - in addition to unpredictable events, like hurricanes and earthquakes. Or you may have predefined workloads, such as batch-processing jobs, that require on/off capacity. With the Windows Azure platform, your available computing and storage resources readily expand and contract as needed and, with the on-demand subscription model, you're not paying for idle infrastructure during slow periods or scrambling to catch up during peak-demand events.
Secure and reliable storage
Durable and affordable storage in geographically dispersed Microsoft data centers is another compelling cloud benefit. Windows Azure Storage utilization is calculated based on your average usage during a billing period - offering a cost-effective solution to your agency's growing needs. Moreover, service level agreements for Windows Azure components guarantee at least 99.9% uptime. Disaster recovery mechanisms are designed into the heart of the Windows Azure platform, and its data-storage services include built-in redundancy so your agency can stay productive - and you can rest assured that your data and applications remain secure and available.