Not Your Father's Cloud: Microsoft Azure Web Sites Explained

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If you need to understand the format of this post, take a look at my introduction to the series.

Like A Boss

Microsoft Azure Web Sites (MAWS) provides an experience that is familiar to many developers or businesses as it resembles traditional shared web hosting. MAWS provides a simpler deployment and management experience than either PaaS Web Roles or IaaS Virtual Machines. Deployments are "black box" and developers have no remote desktop access to the infrastructue hosting Web Sites.  As well as allowing custom-developed web applications written in ASP (yes you read that right), .Net, Node.js, PHP and Python, WAWS also has access to a gallery of existing applications such as Wordpress or Umbraco which can be deployed on demand.

Offered in three tiers:

  • Free (up to 10 sites, 165MB data a day);
  • Shared (up to 100 sites, no data limit);
  • Standard (up to 500 sites, no data limit).

Goes Well With

  • Quick deploy and tear-down web applications (temporary Facebook Apps for example) with an optional small back-end database (up to 20MB free)
  • Multi-site web hosting in a single scalable instance (100 sites on Shared, 500 sites on Standard) - if you host a bunch of stuff for others this is going to help you (including with SSL on Standard)
  • Websites with a relatively low level of external code or custom dependencies (if it can be defined in the web.config and deployed in the package you should be good to go)
  • Web APIs.

Open Other End

  • Complex web applications (new or legacy) where a range of third party or external software is required on the web host at runtime
  • Large scale application with high load where the scale size may exceed the maximum limit of Web Sites (10 instances)
  • Any web application that is required to be on a Windows machine that is joined to a Windows Domain
  • Web applications that require either Linux or Java.

Contents May Be Hot

  • Free is great, but extremely limited (no custom domain, no scale, no SSL and limited daily data).  If you need a site up 100% of the time don't use this tier
  • More expensive that the equivalent sized PaaS Web Role
  • Monthly SLA of 99.9% only applies to Standard Tier (Shared in Preview as of Feb 2014).

Don't Take My Word For It