Today Microsoft announced that it is joining the Open Compute Project by contributing what Microsoft calls the “Microsoft cloud server specification”. To date, almost all of the major public cloud services have failed to expose the inner workings and configurations of the infrastructure that powers the public cloud service. At Gartner, we often advocate (on behalf of our clients) the importance of exposing underlying infrastructure configuration to cloud customers. In fact, in our research, “Evaluation Criteria for Public Cloud IaaS Providers“, we have a specific set of requirements, stipulating published infrastructure transparency by IaaS providers.
In an ever increasing demand for hybrid cloud architectures, customers really do need some level of insight into the underlying infrastructure configuration, especially in IaaS, in order to assess the risk and compatibility of using the environment. Furthermore, understanding the relevant details of the configurations impacts migration, compliance, licensing, configuration and performance.
Obviously, providers can go too far and expose too much information to customers which could lead to targeted security attacks. Gartner is not advocating sharing information such as the location and number of surveillance cameras, the number of trained people on site at any one time, or the security policies configured for IDS/IPS systems. But what Microsoft is doing today, I believe is striking that right balance.
I believe it also continues to confirm that Microsoft not only is serious about playing in the cloud provider market, but that they are also listening to enterprise requirements and taking obstacles out of the equation. Customers will now be able to clearly understand the makeup of servers and configurations within Windows Azure, be able to discern local levels of redundancy and availability and make intelligent decisions about when you use Fault Domains or larger protections on availability such as deployments into multiple locations, geographies or additional providers. At the end of the day, customers want as much information as they can get to make the most informed decisions.
Furthermore, what the Microsoft blog entry does not highlight is the long term benefit that sharing these details offers to large customers and partners to build hybrid clouds and reap its benefits. As the Microsoft and OCP initiative moves forward, there is no reason why large customers and partners cannot start to deploy the same Azure-like infrastructure internally and ensure compatibility in a hybrid cloud architecture as workloads migrate to the public cloud or back to the internal, private cloud.
I’ll be closely watching this evolution in Microsoft’s strategy and paying attention to how enterprise customers react. I will also be very curious what (if any) impact this has on AWS. Microsoft has often emulated moves AWS has made (especially with price cuts) and it will be fascinating to see if AWS responds to this by increasing the transparency of their environment to customers.
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