Microsoft Azure to offer scalability-as-a-service for high-volume apps

The Azure Service Fabric will take care of load balancing as the usage of a cloud application rises

Microsoft plans to introduce a new cloud platform service that may eliminate the need to worry about scaling up an application as it grows in popularity.

The Azure Service Fabric, to be launched as beta preview later this month, might initially interest startups and independent software vendors that need to "get to market quickly and iterate more rapidly," said Mike Schutz, Microsoft general manager of cloud platform marketing.

For the service, the developer writes a C++ or C# application that is "compiled to the Fabric," Schutz said. The Fabric will later support other languages, such as Java. Once the software is deployed, the system scales out of the application. As usage of the application grows, the Fabric automatically replicates instances of it to meet the growing demand. The Fabric also handles tasks such as load balancing.

"The developer doesn't have to worry about where the application is running in the environment because the system does automatic placement," Schutz said. "It's a very hands-off way for developers to deploy their applications."

The Azure Service Fabric is built to run micro-services, in which a cloud application is composed of many smaller, interlocking, components. Micro-services can speed the process of updating a complex application, because if a new component needs to be added or updated, then the application doesn't need to be taken off-line to make the change.

For the past five years, Microsoft has used this fabric architecture for many of its own heavily used customer-facing services, such as the Azure SQL Database, the Lync unified communications platform and the Cortana personal assistant service. The Azure SQL Database hosts more than 1.4 million customer databases and the Cortana back-end can process more than 500 million evaluations per second.

Another early user of the technology has been OSIsoft, a San Francisco-based company that captures and analyzes data on behalf of other organizations. OSIsoft is using the Azure service to expand into the burgeoning Internet of Things market, allowing it to radically expand the number of external devices it could collect data from on behalf of its clients.

Microsoft will make the service available as a preview at the company's Build conference next week. Pricing hasn't been finalized yet and there is no date set for general availability, although Schutz expected that it would be commercially available fairly soon.

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