Microsoft’s cloud offering is known as Windows Azure, and it is rapidly maturing. A couple of years ago it was clunky and hard to use, now it integrates quickly and easily with Visual Studio, making creating and deploying scalable cloud applications quick and easy.
There’s a free trial for new users, and those of us lucky enough to have MSDN subscriptions get a certain amount of compute and data space for free. You can run a number of websites at a free pricing tier, but for anything complex or customised, you will have to pay.
I’ve created a simple application, Magic Deck Statistics Viewer, to get a fuller understanding of Azure, and how it all fits together. My application collects information about decks used in the popular card game Magic: the Gathering, and allows users to generate charts based on the collected data.
It uses a single worker role to gather data once a day, and two web roles to manage the actual site. It’s developed in ASP.NET MVC4, using Visual Studio 2012. I make use of the Extra Small compute instances. These are very cheap to run (you can manage 8-9 on an MSDN subscription), and allow practice with the features of Azure without running up a large bill.
I’ll be covering the details of my Azure Exploration in further posts, and hopefully it will prove to be useful and enlightening to those just starting to investigate the cloud.