Microsoft is investing heavily in cloud computing with several online services available under the Azure Platform.
The SQL Azure cloud database offering has been available for about a year now. I personally haven’t seen wide adoption for SQL Azure but there’s a lot of interest. Most of our clients either don’t think they need to push their data outside their walls or don’t have the kind of scalability needs that Azure addresses. There are some very compelling reasons to use SQL Azure. Security is one of the big questions that comes up in client discussions. The fact is that hosting business data in Azure is probably more secure than most on-premise solutions. Short of some Hollywood action thriller-style terrorist team coming in to take over one of the Microsoft data centers and holding the staff at gun point while stealing all the hard drives, data theft isn’t very easy and therefore, not very likely. For small scale solutions, SQL Azure is cheap and easy. For larger-scale needs, Azure offers the unique ability to scale on demand, making it an ideal way to service intermittent, extremely high-demand scenarios without building and paying for a clustered data center. Since you only pay for what you use and when you use it, licensing and infrastructure ROI is factored out of the equation until you have a lot of activity.
Imagine, for example, an on-line retail market site that routine gets only moderate use. The owner doesn’t need to invest in any on-premise server hardware or software licensing if they use SQL Azure for data services. Because the transaction database doesn’t typically use a lot of storage, the usual cost is low – let’s say it’s only $100 per month during slow times. Now the owner promotes a sale on black Friday, at the beginning of the Christmas holiday shopping season, and the number of transactions soars by a factor of thousands. A single database server or even a small cluster may not be able to handle this traffic volume but SQL Azure scales on-demand to handle the load. Multiple servers are automatically requisitioned during the shopping day and millions of transactions are performed. Of course the cost for increased usage goes up but then drops the next day when traffic settles back down. The sale is a success and the owner has made no hardware or licensing investment to handle the spike in sales. the same scenario applies to web applications hosted using the Windows Azure service. Whether on-premise or in the cloud, most any application can use SQL Azure for storage and data services with a reliable Internet connection.
With reporting and BI coming to the cloud, this will become more a more attractive offering. Azure Reporting, essentially, SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services hosted through the Windows Azure services, should be available as soon as December, 2010. Subscriptions and more advanced management capabilities won’t be part of this offering and you can’t deploy to Azure from Report Builder but all of the reporting features will be available for relational data stored only in SQL Azure databases. How does it work? With a Windows Azure account, simply deploy a report from BIDS to Windows Azure URL and …whamo bamo, it’s there for anyone who has been granted access to view it from anywhere in the galaxy.
Previously called Project Dallas, the Azure Data Market enables people to share data streams and other data commodities for free or purchase. This should be a convenient way to obtain common or specialized sets of data for integration into applications – especially data sets that are common to a lot of applications like geographic information, consumer surveys, real estate and population growth. https://datamarket.azure.com/