Heal Your Church WebSite

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How cloud computing and Azure relates to your church website

Last week, while attending the MS PDC 2008, Ray Ozzie got all jumbo-tron’d at me about Azure and cloud computing. Here’s what it means to you and your church computing operations – now that I’ve had a bit more than a week to catch up on work and think it all through.

First, I suspect some of you are wondering “Dean, what is cloud computing?” Glad you asked.

For the purposes of this conversation, and to avoid all the jargoneeze this IT buzzword is currently enjoying, the could is a metaphor for the Internet.

Cloud computing is effectively outsourcing applications, services, and/or infrastructure you might otherwise host in-house.

For example Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2 for short, basically is a service where you’d rent a fully-managed computer to host your applications – that is accessible via the Internet. What you lose in paying rent is theoretically recouped in terms of not having to worry about the hard and soft costs of systems administration, housing, and/or securing such a computer in the basement of your church.

What Microsoft’s Windows Azure will provide is platform for developers to create applications that will leverage the following services via the Internet:

  • Live Services – where everyone logs in, so this is where you’ll see social networking apps happening. Single Sign On (SSO) federation as well.
  • SQL Services – where the data is kept, though right now, the service is not much better than someone else hosting a MySQL database for you. There are no triggers, stored procedures or other fun stuff yet available.
  • .NET Services – while you’ll eventually be able to use PHP, Ruby, Java, and a bunch of other languages, currently this is where you create ‘federated’ applications that run locally and/or on the cloud itself (hosted by MSFT).
  • SharePoint services – still a future thing, but basically taking what is effectively this Intranet service and providing some or all of its functionality outwards.
  • CRM – also a future thing, but also taking this customer relationship management (CRM) system and providing some or all of its functionality outwards.

By now, I suspect some of you are asking yourselves “Dean, what does this have to do with my churhc website?” Glad you asked.

If you are blessed enough to be part of an über, mega-church complex that benefits from having your own IT operations, developers, and product support:

  • you can save money in infrastructure costs by leveraging some of Azure’s services
  • you can save time in having applications hosted via Azure’s servers
  • you can save collaboration headaches by developing applications via the Azure platform
  • you can save user login complexities by leveraging Azure’s security federation

If you’re part of a smaller church or charity organization, it likely means that sometime in your future may find yourselves subscribing to any number of “software+service” applications via Azure, such as:

  • a social network
  • a content management system
  • a customer relationship management
  • an office suite

On that last point, office suite, bear in mind that Microsoft is very good about eating its own dog food. Meaning, expect more product offerings by the Bellevue behemoth to also leverage or become part of the Azure platform – specifically Microsoft Office applications such as Word and Excel across a variety of platforms in a number of collaborative contexts.

In fact from what I saw last week, they already are – but more on that in the very near future when I blog about what I learned about the upcoming Windows 7 at the MS PDC 2008.

Finally, some of you may be wondering, “where can I learn more about Windows Azure?” Glad you asked:

Here are also some recent blogs on the topic I found worth noting:

Interesting stuff, no?

One Comment

  1. Always like to see information on Cloud Computing! Looks like Australians are starting to wake up to it too with Telstra announcing a $500m spend this week on cloud computing services.