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Does Azure Imply a Cloudless Sky?

by Tom Bittman  |  October 28, 2008  |  9 Comments

Is Azure a hopeful name? An azure sky implies cloudless, doesn’t it?

rainierNo question, Microsoft would like cloud computing to go away. Selling gazillions of copies of Windows and Office, not to mention mere zillions of Windows Server and Server products has been a nice business. This whole cloud idea is ruining their bright, clear, sunny day.

Cloud computing is just too easy for developers. Amazon, and Google Apps Engine are platforms that are just there, easy to get started. Not to say that Amazon, Salesforce or Google have all the kinks worked out – but they sure have lowered the barrier to entry for a developer looking to build a global-class application on the cheap. The Azure Services Platform is Microsoft’s answer to their loyal .NET developers – they will provide the same low barrier to entry and global-class experience. (By the way, the acronym for the Azure Services Platform is really, really unfortunate.)

That doesn’t mean that Azure has the management ecosystem, the elasticity, the quality of service controls that developers need – but give Azure time. This is a long-term play.

Software as a service and cloud computing is also appealing – within limits – to enterprises. Cloudsourcing commodity software, short-term software and capacity peaks sounds great. Extending desktop apps sounds great. Moving critical business data off-premises is less appealing. Finding that right balance – that’s what most enterprises want. Microsoft’s Software Plus Services strategy is intended to respond to that, providing the spectrum and the hybrid offerings that respond to more conservative enterprise demand – and also retaining as much of Microsoft’s traditional business as possible. This is a pragmatic strategy, and Azure will help Microsoft deliver on it.

But, Azure doesn’t support existing applications – applications need to be targeted originally for Azure. With Azure, sourcing is not a runtime operations decision, it is an application design decision. The software and/or services decision is kinda hardwired at design time, which is unfortunate, and means that enterprises will need to look elsewhere for solutions to cloudsource some of their computing requirements.

But what these enterprises really want is help being more efficient internally. What are the Secrets of Azure (doesn’t that sound alluring? Gotta use that again…) that could help enterprises be more efficient and cloud-like?

What about this new Windows Azure “Cloud Operating System”? Sounds pretty cool to me. The only problem – this isn’t a cloud operating system at all. Windows Azure is just the operating system used on all the servers that are supporting the Azure Services Platform, and it is unclear that there is really anything significantly different at all in this operating system than packaged Windows Server 2008 running Hyper-V virtual machines. The real “cloud OS” is the unnamed “fabric” that does all the neat stuff, like monitoring applications, spinning up new VMs when needed, and detecting failed applications. Whatever that is, please box it and sell me some!

Without a doubt, what Microsoft needs to do is to maintain synergy between Azure and “traditional” Windows computing (Software Plus Services), as well as ensure learnings from Azure make it into the “traditional” Windows computing experience. If Microsoft wants the sky to stay azure, they should give enterprises as much of the cloud experience that they can internally – help them build “private clouds” – but always with the option to slide slowly and easily into the direction of Azure – at least easier than into the arms of Google.

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Category: cloud  

Tags: amazon  cloud-computing  data-centers  google  microsoft  virtualization  

Thomas J. Bittman
VP Distinguished Analyst
20 years at Gartner
31 years IT industry

Thomas Bittman is a vice president and distinguished analyst with Gartner Research. Mr. Bittman has led the industry in areas such as private cloud computing and virtualization. Mr. Bittman invented the term "real-time infrastructure," which has been adopted by major vendors and many… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Does Azure Imply a Cloudless Sky?

  1. I definitely agree that the loss of direct data control and housing is a challenge for enterprises fully adopting cloud computing. But I do wonder about this concept of bringing the power of the cloud in house, to some degree, as a reaction to that concern. What’s the power of the cloud if it’s not economy of scale, if it’s not platform outsourcing, if it’s not liquid scalability?

    I suppose bringing the cloud in-house means private slices of the cloud in some meaningful way and not selling the software and consulting to tons of service providers to build their own disconnected cloud computing systems on a smaller scale for the reasons cited above. Could you perhaps clarify your thoughts (or my mis-reads) there?

  2. Tom Bittman says:

    The power of the cloud is definitely economies of scale, but also more efficient and agile sharing of whatever scale you have. Since the vast majority of in-house providers build little islands of computing, each managed independently, if they could behave more like a cloud provider, they could reduce their costs dramatically and increase their flexibility and speed. I’ve even talked to in-house IT shops that feel they are good enough to consider selling some of their capabilities in the cloud as providers.

    See my previous posts to see some of my thoughts here: and

    I think a possible view of IT use in the future will be a few massive providers, lots of midsized providers focused on specific markets, quality of service, etc., larger enterprises with their own in-house IT (but also definitely using cloudsourcing for many specific needs, peaks, etc.), but most small business and lots of medium business in-house IT will be completely delivered from the cloud.

    Azure has a future I believe both as the external provider for smaller businesses and specific apps for large business, and as an architecture that can be adopted/adapted internally by large IT organizations.

    What do you think?

  3. Thanks for the clarification. I agree on your last point that large IT organizations could move more towards a cloud-influenced model in the same way that Amazon originally built AWS and Google originally built BigTable (et al) as a way to facilitate the scale of their development operations with quality. That makes sense to me as an in-house role for the cloud model, whereas using outside cloudware to supplement needs where appropriate is clearly beginning to take shape already.

    Fun times 🙂

  4. JohnMullinax says:

    No question, Microsoft at PDC unveiled the transformational shift the company is undergoing. One of the most impactful statements at PDC almost slid by in David Thompson’s keynote on Day 1: Microsoft will offer *all* enterprise software as either on-premise software or via a subscription-based Internet service. The cloud investments Microsoft has been making over the last few years will make this possible.

    I mention this because it illustrates that Microsoft is actively embracing (and investing to help create) a world where software and services platforms work well together — including the flexibility you mention that enterprises want.

  5. Tom Bittman says:

    Not only is S+S pragmatic for Microsoft, it is pragmatic for users as well. Unlike Google and others offering all or nothing cloud computing, Microsoft is somewhat unique in creating a bridge – much more palatable to enterprises, plus it evolves the MS business model rather than simply cannibalizing it.

  6. Thom McCann says:

    Your quote in comments is really great.
    “think a possible view of IT use in the future will be a few massive providers, lots of midsized providers focused on specific markets, quality of service, etc., larger enterprises with their own in-house IT (but also definitely using cloudsourcing for many specific needs, peaks, etc.),”

    I think this will define “cloud” computing.
    Below, I’ve linked an article on my blog about Azure.
    There are some questions about Azure (and clolud computing in general) that need to be answered. I’m not sure it is ready for adoption unless the plan provides a better path for corporate customers.

  7. […] then dependent on Microsoft as your sole service provider for your mission critical apps.” A Gartner blog adds: “But, Azure doesn’t support existing applications – applications need to be […]

  8. The Azure Platform is just another jumping off point for
    the developments of Quantum Infomation Processing

    concurrancy and its need for parallel processing created high performance clusters HPC for ‘semantic interoperability’. Cloud
    Computing will utilize these ‘live services’ for connectivity (synch framework and live.mesh); hosting and application services will
    transcend all traditional network modalities.

  9. […] Analyst Thomas Bittman agrees, writing in his blog that the need for applications to be rewritten or redeveloped to support Windows Azure could be a […]

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