Microsoft is all set to lock horns with Amazon in the Cloud. Microsoft announced Windows Azure in 2008 as a .NET Platform as a Service (PaaS) and since then they have been adding features to make it more appealing to Java and PHP developers. It has reached a point where Windows Azure has become the polyglot PaaS and semi IaaS offering. With Worker Roles, customers could run a variety of workloads on Windows Azure.
When compared to other PaaS offerings like Heroku, Cloud Foundry and Engine Yard, developers felt that Windows Azure is too prescriptive and forces too much of refactoring to move even simple consumer web applications. These applications need the underlying platform to be highly elastic and due to Windows Azure architecture, achieving rapid elasticity was complex. AWS and other PaaS offerings score high on auto scale capabilities. I always felt that the Windows Azure architecture is more appropriate for Line of Business applications than consumer web applications. To address this, Microsoft is adding a new feature called Windows Azure Websites. Based on what I have been reading, this looks like a perfect web application hosting environment on Azure. Popular CMS frameworks and lightweight web applications need a flexible environment. Though Windows Azure’s architecture provides an extremely robust and stable platform, forced these website to go through a major refactoring thus limiting the portability and scalability. Windows Azure Websites may remove all these constraints and dependencies to deploy the web applications. Recent addition of git support to Windows is an indication of this. Developers will be able to deploy their web applications in just a few seconds from the command line. This will bring Windows Azure to the same level playing field as other PaaS players.