Posts Tagged ‘ Windows Azure ’

Fujitsu to Deliver First Windows Azure Appliance This Summer

The “private cloud” Windows Azure appliances that Microsoft announced a year ago are here. There’s an August, 2011 ship date slated for the first of them.

Fujitsu, one of three OEMs that announced initial support for the Azure Appliance concept, is going to deliver its first Azure Appliance in August 2011, Fujitsu and Microsoft announced on June 7. Fujitsu’s offering is known as the Fujitsu Fujitsu Global Cloud Platform, FGCP/A5, and will be running in Fujitsu’s datacenter in Japan. Fujitsu has been running a trial of the service since April 21, 2011, with 20 companies, according to the press release.

Microsoft officials had no further updates on the whereabouts of appliances from Dell or Hewlett-Packard. Originally, Microsoft told customers to expect Azure Appliances to be in production and available for sale by the end of 2010.

Windows Azure Appliances, as initially described, were designed to be pre-configured containers with between hundreds and thousands of servers running the Windows Azure platform. These containers will be housed, at first, at Dell’s, HP’s and Fujitsu’s datacenters, with Microsoft providing the Azure infrastructure and services for these containers.

In the longer term, Microsoft officials said they expected some large enterprises, like eBay, to house the containers in their own data-centers on site — in other words, to run their own “customer-hosted clouds.” Over time, smaller service providers also will be authorized to make Azure Appliances available to their customers as well.

Fujitsu’s goal with the new Azure-based offering is to sign up 400 enterprise companies, plus 5,000 small/medium enterprise customers and ISVs, in the five-year period following launch, a recent Fujitsu press release noted.

For more information regarding the Azure Appliances, and how they can provide you with a turn-key private cloud solution, visit Nubifer.com/azure.

Cloud Computing: A Guide for Small Businesses

Cloud computing is all the rage these days, being generally described as a computing model in which services and storage are provided online When small business owners or new software companies refer to cloud computing, they most often mean an application that runs on the Internet; as opposed to operating from a desktop that is connected to the Internet—Software as a Service (SaaS). 

Everything from phone services to marketing operations has a cloud based solution. Oftentimes, you are using SaaS without even realizing it. For example, your email provider is likely delivering service from the cloud, without on-premise hardware and software.

The following is a guide of different factors to consider when deciding to adopt a cloud solution for your business.

The growth of cloud computing is astonishing.
The worldwide cloud computing market is estimated at $8 billion, with the U.S. market accounting for $3.2 billion of that sum, or 40%. Gartner’s 2011 predictions place Cloud Computing at the top of their list of Top Strategic Technologies. Additionally, Gartner predicts that the SaaS market will reach $14 billion in 2013.

Says Gartner, “Cloud computing services exist along a spectrum from open public to closed private. The next three years will see the delivery of a range of cloud service approaches that fall between these two extremes. Vendors will offers packaged private cloud implementations that deliver the vendor’s public cloud service technologies (software and/or hardware) and methodologies (i.e., best practices to build and run the service) in a form that can be implemented inside the consumer’s enterprise. Many will also offer management services to remotely manage the cloud service implementation.”

A recent study conducted by AMI-Partners revealed: “Small and medium business (SMB) spending in the U.S. on software-as-service (SaaS) will increase exponentially over the next five years, eclipsing growth in investments in on-premise software by a significant margin. AMI forecasts growth in investments in on-premise software by a significant margin. AMI forecasts a 25% CAGR in hosted business application services spending through 2014. This will come against a modest 5% uptick for all other categories of on-premise software combined. However, this growth will not be uniformly spread across all hosted applications. Mature applications such as ERP, SCM, procurement, finance, and core HR will turn over more slowly than those that are less saturated and have lower switching costs.”

Cloud computing software solutions vs. desktop applications.
Small businesses choose cloud computing solutions over desktop applications because it is less expensive. You pay a small monthly amount rather than a one-time fee, like with traditional desktop software.

Another reason small businesses choose cloud computing solutions is that the SaaS application is often a simplified version of what you are currently using, which is installed on your machine. The developers of many cloud computing apps have created just the basics required to get the job done.

One of the market leaders in the cloud computing industry, Salesforce.com, has over 52,000 customers in 2009 while hosting provider Rackspace has over 1,000 SaaS apps in its new AppMatcher.com service.

Cloud computing solutions are available whenever you want, wherever you are.
The application often needs to be accessible from a web browser for many small business users operating virtual offices or operating remotely on different machines depending on location. Cloud computing is available wherever you have access to a computer and browser, and that is one of its biggest advantages.

If you aren’t connected and operating your laptop offline, many apps have either a mobile app or a widget that you can download to run a lighter version of the software. Some Google Apps, for example, offer a desktop version called Google Gears, which will sync your data when you’re back online. Google Apps has over two million businesses and 25 million users in its cloud computing marketplace.

Simple, focused cloud computing solutions can often get the job done.
If you don’t use all of the features of your desktop, a cloud computing application might offer a “forever free” plan, which will allow you to do the same work as a desktop application, but limited in some way. A billing solution might let you run an unlimited number of voices, for example, but only for two separate clients.

With that said, all apps that live in the cloud are not more basic than their desktop equivalents, but rather they offer a paired down basic package that can help you complete the task at hand when you don’t require the feature-risk version. Zoho, for example, offers a simple bookkeeping app that is free. You can also integrate it with other financial SaaS apps to do more, or purchase the more feature-rich SaaS version.

Pay attention to the security of your data.
It is important to remember that you are still responsible for making sure data is where it needs to be—onsite or in a cloud. Your cloud computing vendor isn’t responsible for your data, security or data privacy. They may promise certain aspects of security, but your are responsible if regulators come calling if you are a financial institution, for example. It is important to make sure you aren’t violating any compliance concerns and that your data is safe.

A May 2010 ‘USA Today’ article told the story of a small business owner whose store was robbed. Eight desktops were stolen. They purchased eight new computers and were back in business in no time thanks to cloud services, like Salesforce.com, Microsoft Office 365 and QuickBooks Online.

Choose a stable and reliable cloud computing vendor.
It is important to ask questions like, What type of Service Level Agreement (SLA) do they have? How long have they been in business? Can you talk to users directly? How many customers do they have? It is often possible to read testimonials and get good information, and if the testimonials are real, they will often link to the person who made the comment. You can also do a search on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Consider the uptime of your cloud computing applications.
Uptime refers to the time a hosted application’s performance record and most are in the range of 98-99.9%–which acknowledges that servers go down for maintenance or unexpected issues. Make sure to read SLAs carefully and talk about changing terms with the vendor if you have to.

Pay attention to customer support.
Be sure to check if there is an extra charge for support and maintenance or if it is included in your monthly subscription fee. While it is often included, it important to read the fine print to check and also to see if you have access to a customer support team via phone, email or social media.

Choose a flexible cloud computing vendor.
Your monthly frees are usually dependent on how many users you have and you can add and subtract users as needed. Your capital outlay to “purchase” cloud based apps is often lower than traditional on-premise or desktop apps. Cloud computing is one streamlined way to scale with your needs.

Evaluate your requirement for software upgrades.
Cloud computing apps are regularly improved and upgraded, and you benefit from each and every improvement without additional direct cost and without the effort and time of downloading and configuring upgrades. Enhancements often happen more quickly and in shorter development cycles, often based on customer requests.

Make sure your cloud solutions integrate well.
Cloud computing might just be for you if your need involves some type of integration, as many of the current cloud based apps offer an API (application programming interface) which other synergistic apps will leverage. You might find an accounting package, for example, that ties into a CRM package. You would have to pay someone to customize both apps for you if you wanted to do this with your current desktop application. A web-based app would save you time and money and might have already done it for you.

You can look into an offering like CastIron (recently acquired by IBM) if integration is your concern, as it “pre-configures a number of apps” so that you can connect to the solutions you are using already.

Cloud computing offers a distinct advantage if rapid deployment is integral to your project, as many cloud computing projects are up and running in hours—sometimes in minutes. Although you may not get every feature set configured to your need, you can start working right our of the gate oftentimes. If the provider you evaluate has an API connected to another application you need, it may offer advantages over a desktop application—which will require more money to customize later.

Cloud computing isn’t always the least exciting solution.
Cloud computing may be the perfect option if cash-flow is an issue. While on-premise software purchases often involve high upfront licensing costs, cloud computing apps often require no large up-front licensing fees requiring department or board approval. There are usually no annual maintenance fees either.

On a website pricing page, SaaS pricing is often clear, and if a cloud computing app vendor requires a demo or doesn’t reveal its pricing, it usually means that there is a more complicated solution that demands some installation process or customization that will cost more upfront.

Pay attention to how quickly your software needs to change.
User are often forced to choose between a.) Upgrading at a high cost and experiencing delays as the new features are evaluated and plans for adoption are formulated, and hire or enlist local IT talent to develop, test, debug, deploy and train personnel on the new application, or b.) Continue using the older version of the software and avoid advantages of an upgraded version when an application packages requires an upgrade.

You are left waiting for software changes to be made by the software company in both cases, but with the cloud computing model, you will see those upgrades sooner than with a desktop application. The vendor applies upgrades at the data center and the upgrades are made available to users immediately via online connection and there are only minor delays—they also come at no cost to the user.

Remember: your monthly fee covers the upgrades so make sure to compare this when you need to consider this. If you upgrade each year, than the monthly outlay may be lower from a total cost perspective over time, while with a desktop application you are waiting until the next—often annual—release.

Many goals can be accomplished without all of the bells and whistles.
Because they are often focused on a particular area or business niche, cloud based applications can be less robust. While it can be argued that you have to operate your business—from a software perspective—using the Pareto Principle in which 80% of the effects come from 20% of the solution, this isn’t entirely accurate because most desktop users routinely admit that they don’t use all of the features of a desktop application. This partly explains how many cloud based applications get developed—they look at core problems rather than a large feature set that most users won’t even try.

If the cloud computing application lacks some of the features you need, you can add features via customization or premium levels of vendor service. Each application provider is different, but most offer extensive interface capability, usually via Web services that integrate both internal and hosted systems.

A common myth is that cloud computing software doesn’t play well with legacy applications/data sources, but there are two primary methods of integrating cloud computing apps: batch synchronization (which initially involved exporting/importing your data into a cloud based applications, after which your data can be incrementally synchronized on a scheduled basis) and real-time integration via Web services (which is like a neural middle layer where your application talks to the cloud computing company).

It is important to note that you have to evaluate the implications and limitations of cloud computing software for your needs. Some gaps remain for complex end-to-end processes that require complicated workflows or business processes.

Engage your technical team.
It is important to keep lead technical people in the loop for security and integration issues for a number of reasons. If you are a business owner and are unsure about what information you are sharing, you could be sending information out that onsite applications need or you could even be putting corporate information at risk.

Applications and services are now easily accessible to end-users, who can acquire SaaS capabilities without input from their IT or data management teams, which is a major challenge with cloud computing. Other related issues like data replication, outages and the complications of outsourced data storage can complicate cloud integrations. And if your tech team isn’t aware that your are running certain cloud based apps, you could create  challenge in multiple functional areas.

Good cloud computing companies have built their web apps on a Web-services based architecture because it is less proprietary and easier for these apps to share data with one another. These standards make it easier for companies to integrate services, but they can inadvertently create security problems by making a hacker’s job easy if the proper security isn’t in place.

Internal training is still required.
Most SaaS vendors provide online video tutorials in addition to robust user communities and forums where you can get your questions answered. This makes cloud applications easier to use with less training involved. Direct access to these teams means less of a burden on your own internal technical teams.

Conclusion
Cloud computing is drastically shaping the current small business market and if you are trying to grow your business and are limited by cash flow, cloud computing is an attractive option. The addition of Smartphones and other mobile technologies—aka mobile computing—makes for a dwindling audience for on-premise applications. The previously listed 16 things to consider before choosing cloud computing solutions will help give you a new outlook on how to get work done and solve problems.

For more information on how cloud computing can help your small business contact a Nubifer representative today.

Cloud Computing’s Popularity with SMB’s

There is no simple answer as to whether or not 2010 was the year small business IT finally adopted cloud computing once and for all. On behalf of Microsoft, 7th Sense Research recently conducted a study on cloud computing in small business computing environments and found that 29% of SMBs view the cloud as an opportunity for small business IT to be more strategic. The study also found that 27% of SMBs have bought into cloud computing because it integrates with existing technology investments, while 12% of SMBs have used the cloud to start a new business.

Despite those figures, overall, small businesses are largely unfamiliar with cloud computing. Josh Waldo, director of SMB Marketing at Microsoft reveals, “Roughly 20 percent of SMBs claim to know what cloud technology is.”

The numbers just don’t match up, but Waldo points out that just because people may not identify with the term cloud computing doesn’t mean they aren’t using the technology. Take Gmail or Hotmail, for example: They are both prime examples of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) form of cloud computing and are extremely popular—without their many users even realizing they are using cloud technology when checking their inbox.

“People might not understand what cloud is. But they are using it. They’re using it in their private life. In some cases they’re using it in their work life. But they might not necessarily identify it with the term cloud,” says Waldo.

He believes that the lack of familiarity SMB’s have with cloud computing can be an opportunity for Microsoft, Zoho and other providers of small business technology. Says Waldo, “For Microsoft, what that means is that this gives us a big opportunity to really educate SMB’s about cloud technologies and how they can benefit their business. Our goal is really going to be to help SMB’s evolve how they think about technology.”

According to Waldo, the benefits for small businesses that embrace the cloud are potentially huge: “First, SMBs can get enterprise-class technology at a fraction of the price, where you’re not purchasing on-premises technology that’s going to cost you an enormous amount upfront. Second, it really allows companies, whether you’re a development shop and you’re building software, or you’re an end customer—like a financial or insurance firm—to focus on your business rather than your IT requirements.”

By outsourcing data-center needs, for example, small business IT can eliminate building out capacity to handle potential strikes in data or transaction processing, because they buy the processing power they need when they need it. This leads to another key benefit of cloud computing: elasticity and the expectation of mobility. Waldo defines elasticity as the capability to scale up or down rapidly, based on need. While that includes processing power, it also means being able to add new users from a seasonal workforce—without having to deal with per-seat licensing associated with traditional desktop software.

When it comes to the expectation of mobility, Waldo says that today’s notebook, smartphone and tablet-totting employees want to make their work more flexible by making it mobile. SMB’s can let employees access the information and applications they need while on the go by exposing core applications as SaaS via the cloud.

Embracing Cloud Computing
Waldo recommends that SMB’s that have decided to embrace the cloud by adding cloud computing to their small business technology portfolio seek expert advice. “We really think it’s important that SMB’s choose carefully. And if they’re uncertain, they should work with a third party or a consultant or a value added reseller or some type of agent who understands the various elements of cloud technology and [who] can advise clients,” he says.

According to Chad Collins, CEO of Nubifer.com, a provider of turn-key cloud automation solutions, the first thing a small business should consider is which problem it is trying to solve: “The most important thing is that the cloud really isn’t just about infrastructure. It’s about solving problems. It should be about scalability, elasticity and economies of scale.” Collins adds, “What our enterprise clients are asking for is the ability to create virtual environments, run applications without code changes or rewrites and, most importantly, to be able to collaborate and share using single sign-on interface.

Collins says that the person responsible for small business IT should ask a range of questions when considering a cloud services provider. Among the most important is: Does the cloud provider allow you to run existing applications without any code rewrites or changes to code? Microsoft’s research reveals that 27% of SMBs have already bought into cloud services because it integrates with existing technology, while another 36% would be encouraged to but into the cloud because of that fact. “Being able to migrate custom applications over to the cloud without rewrites is not only a huge cost saver but also a huge time saver for SMBs,” says Collins.

Another important question is whether the cloud provider offers granular user access and user-based permissions based on roles. Can you measure value on a per user basis? Can you auto-suspend resources by setting parameters on usage to avoid overuse of the cloud? The latter is important because although cloud services can result in immense cost savings, their pay-as-you-go nature can yield a large tab if used inefficiently.

Collins recommends paying special attention to the level of responsive support offered by a cloud provider. “I think for SMBs it’s really important. Having to log a Web form and then wait 24 to 48 hours for support can be really frustrating,” he says, adding that the provider should guarantee that a support team would respond in mere hours. Agreeing with Collins, Waldo points out that a service-level agreement with a high-availability and 24 hour support is key.

To discover how the power of cloud computing can benefit your SMB, please visit Nubifer.com.

Microsoft Outlines Plans for Integration-as-a-Service on Windows Azure

Although Microsoft officials have been discussing plans for the successor to the company’s BizTalk Server 2010 product for some time, the cloud angle of Microsoft’s plans for its BizTalk integration server didn’t become clear until late October 2010, at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC). 

When looking at a BizTalk Server Team blog, it appears as if Microsoft is thinking about BizTalk vNext transforming into something akin to Windows Azure and SQL Azure—at least in concept—a “BizTalk Azure.”

An excerpt from the blog says, “Our plans to deliver a true Integration service—a multi-tenant, highly scalable cloud service built on AppFabric and running on Windows Azure—will be an important and game changing step for BizTalk Server, giving customers a way to consume integration easily without having to deploy extensive infrastructure and systems integration.”

The latest news from Microsoft reveals that there will be an on-premise version of BizTalk vNext as well—and the final version is slated to arrive in 2012. A Microsoft spokesperson said, “We will deliver new cloud-based integration capabilities both on Windows Azure (as outlined in the blog) as well as continuing to deliver the same capability on-premises. This leverages our AppFabric strategy of providing a consistent underlying architecture foundation across both services and server. This will be available to customers in the 2 year cadence that is consistent with previous major releases of BizTalk Server and other Microsoft enterprise server products.”

In September 2010, Microsoft released the latest on-premises software version of BizTalk (BizTalk Server 2010), which is a minor release of Microsoft’s integration server that supports Visual Studio 2010, SQL Server 2008 R2, Windows Server AppFabric and Windows Server 2008 R2.

There are currently over 10,000 BizTalk Server customers—paying a hefty price for the product—and thus Microsoft officials are being careful in their positioning of BizTalk Azure. Microsoft will ensure that existing customers are able to move to the Azure version “only at their own pace and on their own terms.” Microsoft plans on providing side-by-side support for BizTalk Server 2010 and BizTalk Azure to make sure apps don’t break and will also offer “enhances integration between BizTalk and AppFabric (both Windows Server AppFabric and Windows Azure AppFabrics).

Microsoft recently rolled out the First CTP (Community Technology Preview) of the Patterns and Practices Composite Application Guidance for using BizTalk Server 2010, Windows Server AppFabric and Windows Azure AppFabric together as part of an overall composite application solution. Additionally, Microsoft previewed a number of future enhancements to Windows Azure AppFabric.

For more information regarding BizTalk on Azure, contact a Nubifer representative today.

A Closer Look at Microsoft’s Cloud Service Offerings

Although the Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) is a primary component of Microsoft’s Cloud services, BPOS is not an all encompassing definition of their cloud service suite—it is simply one compelling offering available.

A Closer Look at Microsoft’s Cloud Services

It is a common assumption that Microsoft is relatively new to offering cloud services, but Microsoft has been on a journey leading up to this point for 15 years, beginning back with Windows Live and Hotmail.

During that time, their services and offerings delivered online have continued to expand. Currently, a number of cloud-based solutions are available, enabling businesses and organizations to become more efficient and scalable. Here is an outline of Microsoft’s cloud offerings, and brief descriptions of their capabilities:

Windows Azure:
A flexible, familiar environment to create applications and services for the cloud in which can shorten time to market and adapt to growing demand.

Windows Live ID:
Identify and authentication system provided by Windows Live. Lets you create universal sign-in credentials across diverse applications.

Microsoft SQL Azure:
Provides a highly scalable, multi-tenant database that doesn’t require installation, setup, patches or routine management.

Windows Intune:
Streamlines how businesses manage and secure PC’s using Windows Cloud Services and Windows 7.

Microsoft Office Web Apps:
Offers online companions to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, granting freedom to access, edit and share Microsoft Office documents from anywhere.

Microsoft Exchange Online:
Highly secure hosted email for your employees. Offers “anywhere access” and starts at just $4 per user per month.

Microsoft Office Live Meeting:
Provides real-time Web-hosted conferencing, enabling you to connect with colleagues and engage clients from wherever you’re located.

Microsoft Forefront Online Protection for Exchange:
Helps protect businesses’ inbound and outbound email from viruses, spam, phishing scams and email policy violations.

Microsoft SharePoint Online:
Gives your business a highly secure, central location in which employees can collaborate and share documents.

Microsoft Office Communication Online:
Delivers robust messaging functionality for real-time communication via text, voice and video.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online:
Helps you find, keep and grow business relationships by centralizing customer information and streamlining processes with a system that adapt to new demands quickly.

Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS):
Unites online versions of Microsoft’s messaging and collaborating solutions such as: Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting and Office Communications Online.

Opting for Microsoft Online Services allows you to combine the power of rich desktop-based applications with the flexibility of fully-hosted Internet services.This approach gives users an all-in-one integrated experience on the same applications your users already know with a consistent look and feel from any device, in any location.

To summarize, the opportunity that Microsoft’s cloud services offers is exciting, whether you are a partner or a business. It is important to utilize the resources outlined above to either begin or continue your journey into what Microsoft’s cloud and online services can offer your enterprise.

For more information about Microsoft’s Cloud Solutions, contact a Nubifer representative today, or visit Nubifer.com.

Taking a Closer Look at the Power of Microsoft Windows Azure AppFabric

Microsoft’s Windows Azure runs Windows applications and stores advanced applications, services and data in the cloud. This baseline understanding of Windows Azure, coupled with the practicality of using computers in the cloud makes leveraging the acres of Internet-accessible servers on offer today an obvious choice. Especially when the alternate option of buying and maintaining your own space in data centers and hardware deployed to those data centers can quickly become costly. For some applications, both code and data might live in the cloud, where the systems they use are managed and maintained by someone else. On-premise applications—which run inside an organization—might store data in the cloud or rely on other cloud infrastructure services. Ultimately, making use of the cloud’s capabilities provides a variety of advantages.

Windows Azure applications and on-premises applications can access the Windows Azure storage service using a REST-ful approach. The storage service allows storing binary large objects (blobs), provides queues for communication between components of Windows Azure application, and also offers a form of tables with a simple query language. The Windows Azure platform also provides SQL Azure for applications that need traditional relational storage. An application using the Windows Azure platform is free to use any combination of these storage options.

One obvious need between applications hosted in the cloud and hosted on-premise is communication between applications. Windows Azure AppFabric provides a Service Bus for bi-directional application connectivity and Access Control for federated claims-based access control.

Service Bus for Azure AppFabric

The primary feature of the Service Bus is message “relaying” to and from the Windows Azure cloud to your software running on-premise, bypassing any firewalls, network address translation (NAT) or other network obstacles. The Service Bus can also help negotiate direct connections between applications. Meanwhile, the Access Control feature provides a claims-based access control mechanism for applications, making federation easier to tackle and allowing your applications to trust identities provided by other systems.

A .NET developer SDK is available that simplifies integrating these services into your on-premises .NET applications. The SDK integrates seamlessly with Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and other Microsoft technologies to build on pre-existing skill sets as much as possible. These SDKs have been designed to provide a first-class .NET developer experience, but it is important to point out that they each provide interfaces based on industry standard protocols. Thus, making it possible for applications running on any platform to integrate with them through REST, SOAP and WS-protocols.

SDKs for Java and Ruby are currently available for download. Combining them with the underlying Windows Azure platform service produces a powerful, cloud-based environment for developers.

Access Control for the Azure AppFabric

Over the last decade, the industry has been moving toward an identity solution based on claims. A claims-based identity model allows the common features of authentication and authorization to be factored out of your code, at which point such logic can then be centralized into external services that are written and maintained by subject matter experts in security and identity. This is beneficial to all parties involved.

Access Control is a cloud-based service that does exactly that. Rather than writing your own customer user account and role database, customers can let AC orchestrate the authentication and most of the user authorization. With a single code base in your application, customers can authorize access to both enterprise clients and simple clients. Enterprise clients can leverage ADFS V2 to allow users to authenticate using their Active Directory logon credentials, while simple clients can establish a shared secret with AC to authenticate directly with AC.

The extensibility of Access Control allows for easy integration of authentication and authorization through many identity providers without the need for refactoring code. As Access Control evolves, support for authentication against Facebook Connect, Google Accounts, and Windows Live ID can be quickly added to an application. To reiterate: over time, it will be easy to authorize access to more and more users without having to change the code base.

When using AC, the user must obtain a security token from AC in order to log in; this token is similar to a signed email message from AC to your service with a set of claims about the user’s identity. AC doesn’t issue a token unless the user first provides his or her identity by either authenticating with AC directly or by presenting a security token from another trusted issuer (such as ADFS) that has authenticated that user. So by the time the user presents a token to the service, assuming it is validated, it is safe to trust the claims in the token and begin processing the user’s request.

Single sign-on is easier to achieve under this model, so a customer’s service is no longer responsible for:

• Authenticating users
• Storing user accounts and passwords
• Calling to enterprise directories to look up user identity details
• Integrating with identity systems from other platforms or companies
• Delegation of authentication (a.k.a. federation) with other security realms

Under this model, a customer’s service can make identity-related decisions based on claims about the user made by a trusted issuer like AC. This could be anything from simple service personalization with the user’s first name, to authorizing the user to access higher-valued features and resources in the customer’s service.

Standards

Due to the fact that single sign-on and claims-based identity have been evolving since 2000, there are a myriad of ways of doing it. There are competing standards for token formats as well as competing standards for the protocols used to request those tokens and send them to services. This fact is what makes AC so useful, because over time, as it evolves to support a broader range of these standards, your service will benefit from broader access to clients without having to know the details of these standards, much less worry about trying to implement them correctly.

Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) was the first standard. SAML specified an XML format for tokens (SAML tokens) in addition to protocols for performing Web App/Service single sign-on (SAML tokens are sometimes referred to inside Microsoft as SAMLP–for the SAML protocol suite). WS-Federation and related WS-* specifications also define a set of protocols for Web App/Service single sign-on, but they do not restrict the token format to SAML, although it is practically the most common format used today.

To Summarize

The Service Bus and Access Control constituents of the Windows Azure platform provide key building block services that are vital for building cloud-based or cloud-aware applications. Service Bus enables customer to connect existing on-premises applications with new investments being built for the cloud. Those cloud assets will be able to easily communicate with on-premises services through the network traversal capabilities, which are provided through Service Bus relay.

Overall, the Windows Azure platform represents a comprehensive Microsoft strategy designed to make it easy for Microsoft developers to realize the opportunities inherent to cloud computing. The Service Bus and Access Control offer a key component of the platform strategy, designed specifically to aid .NET developers in making the transition to the cloud. These services provide cloud-centric building blocks and infrastructure in the areas of secure application connectivity and federated access control.

For more information on the Service Bus & Access Control, please contact a Nubifer representative or visit these Microsoft sponsored links:

• An Introduction to Windows Azure platform AppFabric for Developers (this paper)
o http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=150833

• A Developer’s Guide to Service Bus in Windows Azure platform AppFabric
o http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=150834

• A Developer’s Guide to Access Control in Windows Azure platform AppFabric
o http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=150835

• Windows Azure platform
o http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/

• Service Bus and Access Control portal
o http://netservices.azure.com/

Dell and Microsoft Partner Up with the Windows Azure Platform Appliance

Dell and Microsoft announced a strategic partnership in which Dell will adopt the Windows Azure platform appliance as part of its Dell Services Cloud to develop and deliver next-generation cloud services at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference on July 12. With the Windows Azure platform, Dell will be able to deliver private and public cloud services for its enterprise, public, small and medium-sized business customers. Additionally, Dell will develop a Dell-powered Windows Azure platform appliance for enterprise organizations to run in their data-centers.

So what does this mean exactly? By implementing the limited production release of the Windows Azure platform appliance to host public and private clouds for its customers, Dell will leverage its vertical industry expertise in offering solutions for the speedy delivery of flexible application hosting and IT operations. In addition, Dell Services will produce application migration, advisory migration and integration and implementation services.

Microsoft and Dell will work together to develop a Windows Azure platform appliance for large enterprise, public and hosting customers to deploy to their own data centers. The resulting appliance will leverage infrastructure from Dell combined with the Windows Azure platform.

This partnership shows that both Dell and Microsoft recognize that more organizations can reap the benefits of the flexibility and efficiency of the Windows Azure platform. Both companies understand that cloud computing allows IT to increase responsiveness to business needs and also delivers significant efficiencies in infrastructure costs. The result will be an appliance to power a Dell Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) Cloud.

The announcement with Dell occurred on the same day that Microsoft announced the limited production release of the Windows Azure platform appliance, a turnkey cloud platform for large service providers and enterprises to run in their own data centers. Initial partners (like Dell) and customers using the appliance in their data centers will have the scale-out application platform and data center efficiency of Windows Azure and SQL Azure that Microsoft currently provides.

Since the launch of the Windows Azure platform, Dell Data Center Solutions (DCS) has been working with Microsoft to built out and power the platform. Dell will use the insight gained as a primary infrastructure partner for the Windows Azure platform to make certain that the Dell-powered Windows Azure platform appliance is optimized for power and space to save ongoing operating costs and performance of large-scale cloud services.

A top provider of cloud computing infrastructure, Dell’s client roster boasts 20 of the 25 most heavily-trafficked Internet sites and four of the top global search engines. The company has been custom-designing infrastructure solutions for the top global cloud service providers and hyperscale data center operations for the past three years and has developed an expertise about the specific needs of organizations in hosting, HPC, Web 2.0, gaming, energy, social networking, energy, SaaS, plus public and private cloud builders in that time.

Speaking about the partnership with Microsoft, president of Dell Services Peter Altabef said, “Organizations are looking for innovative ways to use IT to increase their responsiveness to business needs and drive greater efficiency. With the Microsoft partnership and the Windows Azure platform appliance, Dell is expanding its cloud services capabilities to help customers reduce their total costs and increase their ability to succeed. The addition of the Dell-powered Windows Azure platform appliance marks an important expansion of Dell’s leadership as a top provider of cloud computing infrastructure.”

Dell Services delivers vertically-focused cloud solutions with the combined experience of Dell and Perot Systems. Currently, Dell Services delivers managed and Software-as-a-Service support to over 10,000 customers across the globe. Additionally, Dell boasts a comprehensive suite of services designed to help customers leverage public and private cloud models. With the new Dell PaaS powered by the Windows Azure platform appliance, Dell will be able to offer customers an expanded suite of services including transformational services to help organizations move applications into the cloud and cloud-based hosting.

Summarizing the goal of the partnership with Dell, Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft Server and Tools said at the Microsoft Windows Partner Conference on July 12, “Microsoft and Dell have been building, implementing and operating massive cloud operations for years. Now we are extending our longstanding partnership to help usher in the new era of cloud computing, by giving customers and partners the ability to deploy Windows Azure platform in their datacenters.”