The Windows Azure platform, first announced in October 2008, had its business and partner model debut last month. Some cloud capabilities appeared earlier, in Microsoft's Silverlight 3 Beta and Expression Blend 3 Preview platforms.

Azure includes a cloud services operating system, a Web-based relational database in Microsoft SQL Azure, and connectivity and interoperability with .NET Services. The platform combines cloud-based developer capabilities with storage, computational and network infrastructure services hosted on servers in Microsoft's global datacenter network. 

  • Security: SQL is built on SQL Server technology, which incorporates enterprise-level security features.
  • Agility: Developers can deploy applications in the cloud, on-premises, or in combination.
  • Cost elements: Pricing is pay-as-you-go, backed by service-level agreements. Once Windows Azure is launched for commercial use, it will be priced and licensed through a consumption-based model:
    • Windows Azure:
      • Compute: $0.12 / hour
      • Storage: $0.15 / GB stored / month
      • Storage Transactions: $0.01 / 10K
      • Bandwidth: $0.10 in / $0.15 out / GB
    • SQL Azure:
      • Web Edition, to 1 GB relational database: $9.99 / month
      • Business Edition, to 10 GB relational database: $99.99 / month
      • Bandwidth: $0.10 in / $0.15 out / GB  

  • Biopharma suitability: Suited to building applications, with Visual Studio, the .Net Framework, SQL Server in the form of SQL Azure, and Microsoft SharePoint, then run the resulting cloud application in Azure itself.

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