When Microsoft announced Azure at PDC last October, it was a bit late to the party. Pre-packaged cloud applications like Salesforce.com and Web-based email had been out for a while, but there were also more discrete, developer-centric tools and platforms.
One of the most well known cloud computing vendors is Amazon, which offers not just VMs but cloud-based storage and database services. Amazon’s SimpleDB uses XML to accept queries and spit back the result. There are also more integrated approaches. For instance, Salesforce.com lets developers write applications in its custom programming language Apex Code, which includes language constructs that hook into Salesforce.com’s database.
InfoWorld reviewed a few of these cloud-based databases in its examination of a new breed of simple, non-relational databases. Although the article didn’t look at Azure SQL Data Services (SDS) — they’re relational, and Azure isn’t even out yet — it did raise some questions that Microsoft shouldn’t ignore.
As InfoWorld sees it, the new breed of databases forego much of SQL’s data integrity patterns in favor of simpler query-response transactions. That may not be suitable for banks and other critical applications, but it’s just fine for many situations.
Since many of those non-critical applications are just the kind that companies might consider to try out Azure, Microsoft may be missing out on an opportunity by only providing full a full SQL database service in Azure. On the other hand, providing this sort of powerful service without a simpler database-ish offering could help drive home the message that Azure is intended for real, heavy, enterprise-level applications.
And of course, if programmers really want a simple, name-value, XML-based service, it won’t be hard to write one in Azure that uses SQL Data Services on the backend.