Microsoft Launches Cloud Computing Product, Goes Head-to-Head with Amazon
It looks like Microsoft is getting with the program. The cloud computing program, that is. Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, has just announced “Windows Azure,” a cloud-based Web service that is hosted on Microsoft servers and lets developers build and run software applications via the Internet. Ozzie spoke about the new product in his keynote at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.
“We have introduced a game-changing set of technologies that will bring new opportunities to Web developers and business developers alike,” Ozzie said. The Azure Services platform, he said, “promises to transform the way businesses operate and how consumers access their information and experience the Web.”
It’s a big deal for Microsoft, and for cloud computing. Until now, Microsoft had introduced only bits and pieces of its cloud-based technology. The new product is seen as Microsoft’s answer to Amazon Web Services and its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) platform, which is still the leader in the space. Microsoft’s Azure Services platform can run applications like Web-based e-mail, search, messaging, photo and video sharing, and other social-networking tools, as well as store and handle large amounts of data from businesses and corporations. All of that runs through data centers around the world; in the past year, Microsoft has opened large data centers in Quincy, WA, and San Antonio, TX, and it’s planning to open additional ones in Chicago, IL, and Dublin, Ireland.
For now, developers are restricted to using Microsoft development tools like Visual Studio and the .NET framework. So Azure might seem like a much less flexible brand of cloud computing than Amazon’s. But Ozzie argued that it’s actually a broader and more powerful use of the cloud, in that it gives users better access to raw computing power. In any case, the cloud computing business just got much more interesting—and competitive.