We've already told you about the benefits of working with Windows Azure and highlighted some of the great resources for building Azure apps. There's two other major options in the Azure pack to consider: AppFabric and Marketplace. Here's what you need to know.
By definition, cloud services involve complex interaction between multiple components, and keeping track of just what's going on can sometimes be tricky. Azure's AppFabric middleware makes the process much more straightforward, adding a new level of services which your applications can draw on without having to deal with all the underlying complexities. This is referred to as a Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) model, and just as with the main Azure platform, you only pay for what you actually use in delivering your applications.
In practical terms, that means you can easily develop complex applications which make use of multiple services, letting you work easily with abstracted components rather than being distracted by integration details. New add-on layers for Visual Studio allow you to easily tie together separate components into a single app. AppFabric makes it easier to integrate existing applications into your cloud workflow, and to ensure that applications are delivered securely.
The high-level middleware services which AppFabric provides are language-neutral, so you can make use of them whether you want to use .NET, Java, Ruby or PHP.
Windows Azure Marketplace
As you'd expect from the name, the Windows Azure Marketplace is where developers can search for useful Azure resources and code, or sell their own creations. The Marketplace has two distinct components: Applications and DataMarket. Applications concentrates on coding resources, while DataMarket provides a central repository of public and commercial data services which can be used to feed into Windows Azure-based applications.
Like any good development system, Windows Azure lets you build on the work of others. Windows Azure Marketplace Applications provides a central resource where developers can find building block components, plug-ins and administrative tools to incorporate into their own applications, as well as fully-completed applications and Azure training and services. It's a great resource for promoting your own products, as well as accessing specialist expertise if you're building a complex system.
Getting listed on Marketplace Applications is a straightforward process — the system is driven by Microsoft's Pinpoint partner management system. Once you've profiled your company and highlighted that you're working with Windows Azure, your application will be checked by Microsoft staff and then added to the Marketplace.
Remember, if you've got a great idea for a Windows Azure app, we can help make it happen — check out our awesome My Concept Rules contest.