Microsoft recently announced that you can install SharePoint on virtual machines (IaaS) on Azure.
Why would you want to do this? The main motivator is the speed at which you can bring the environment up. If you don't have a robust Hyper-V or VMware environment in house, Azure gives you an easy way to spin up servers with no trips to the data center and no ordering/provisioning hardware. Unlike the Office 365 offering, you have complete control over your SharePoint farm and guaranteed uptime of 99.9%.
What type of SharePoint environment is a candidate for Azure?
- SharePoint for Internet Sites - Move your external website to Azure and you don't need to deal with DMZ's and firewalls (or your networking co-workers).
- Developer, Test and Staging - Bring them up and blow them away as needed. With Azure PowerShell this can all be scripted.
- Hybrid Applications - You can setup a SharePoint environment that pulls or pushes data to applications in your local data center (on-premise).
- Disaster Recovery - When your local environment takes a hard nap, bring it up in Azure and then blow it away when you get it restored.
You can also find a great article detailing how to setup a basic Azure SharePoint farm with step-by-step instructions and screen shots over at PointBeyond.
You can also watch the following video from Channel 9 presented at TechEd.