Windows Azure is a Microsoft cloud computing platform and is a Platform as a service (PaaS) offering from Microsoft Online Services. The platform consists of various on-demand services hosted in Microsoft data centers and commoditized through three product brands: Windows Azure (an operating system providing scalable compute and storage facilities), SQL Azure (a cloud-based, scale-out version of SQL Server), and Windows Azure AppFabric (a collection of services supporting applications both in the cloud and on premise). Microsoft has also published plans to offer the Windows Azure Platform Appliance, which can be hosted in non-Microsoft data centers. This will enable resellers, such as HP, Dell, Fujitsu and eBay, to offer cloud services based on the Microsoft Azure Platform.
In 2012 Microsoft has launched a revamped version of Azure. The newly-updated ‘Azure’ cloud service includes a type of model pioneered by Amazon, which is known as ‘infrastructure as a service’ (IaaS). It involves a procedure whereby the consumer rents rather than buys the hardware for computer processing and data storage, along with the Internet bandwidth to host it.