Microsoft’s Cloud Platform, Azure, Looks to Combine Best of Google, Amazon Web Services

5/4/09Follow @gthuang

The idea of computing “in the cloud” is certainly, well, in the air—to the point where I think people are starting to become allergic to it. It seems that “cloud computing” has become the new “nano.” Putting the term in front of whatever your business is doing doesn’t necessarily make it a good (or even viable) strategy. And the concept—making data storage, computing power, and software applications available over the Internet via remote servers—certainly isn’t new.

But if Microsoft is betting heavily on it, you know it has gone totally mainstream. Last October, Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, announced Windows Azure, the company’s upcoming cloud-based operating system, and Azure Services, which is meant to allow software developers to build and run software applications hosted on Microsoft servers. The platform is still in the “community technology preview” stage, with a more general release planned for later this year. There has been a lot of speculation about what Microsoft’s cloud-based products can and can’t do—and so far the top brass, including Ozzie (who just spoke at Friday’s Technology Alliance luncheon in Seattle), have kept mum on the details.

Enter Doug Hauger, general manager of cloud infrastructure services and former chief operating officer of Microsoft India. Hauger gave a talk last Thursday evening, organized by the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA), in which he spelled out Microsoft’s world view of cloud computing. Hauger said his goal was to convey, “What are we thinking about cloud, and what should people be thinking about?”

It was the final event in a four-part WTIA cloud computing series, which included talks by Amazon, Google, and Terremark. Thursday’s event also had a demo from Ian Knox of Seattle-based Skytap, showing how companies can run Microsoft’s development software in the cloud, and use Skytap’s cloud-computing platform to set up virtual environments for doing testing and debugging; Microsoft is one of Skytap’s partners. But what most people were wondering was how Microsoft is positioning itself versus Amazon and Google in the competition for cloud services.

Hauger, a Boston University alum, didn’t say anything particularly earth-shattering, and he didn’t give very many specifics about Windows Azure—which is fair enough, since the product isn’t out there yet. He did clarify that it’s pronounced “AZH-ure,” with the emphasis on the first syllable (sort of rhymes with “badger”)—at least that’s how Hauger says it. Here are my top five takeaways from his talk:

5. “CIOs are incredibly confused” about the cloud, Hauger said. “IT vendors are saying, … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • Ana Rodriguez

    Hi Gregory,

    I think you’re right; most people want to use cloud computing without knowing its full capacities before. Companies should research before and see what is best for them. Microsoft is giving steps forward to the future with the new cloud computing revolution. Azure will change the way applications are developed and will reduce costs.

    Our company just developed a cloud-hosted application using Windows Azure. You can take a look at it here: http://personalradiostation.cloudapp.net/. If you like it, you can help us vote for it at the new CloudApp() Contest: http://www.newcloudapp.com/vote.aspx. The app is listed at the end of the page, under the name of Omar Del Rio.

    Rewards,

    Ana Rodriguez
    ana.rodriguez@sieena.com

  • http://www.cloudshare.com Rachel Teisch

    I think since this was written cloud computing has become a viable strategy for organizations of all sizes. IT and business end-users no longer have to jump in with both feet.

    Our company, CloudShare, provides an easy and quick way for individuals and companies to move their application lifecycle development functions to the cloud, from development and testing and application migration to demos, POCs, and training. It’s easy to start small and scale as needs growth – http://www.cloudshare.com.