Microsoft's Cloud: Windows Azure

Microsoft's new cloud development platform, Windows Azure, was unveiled today by Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie.

Rich Miller

October 27, 2008

3 Min Read
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Microsoft's new cloud development platform, Windows Azure, was unveiled today by Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie at the Microsoft Professional Developer's Conference in Los Angeles. Windows Azure provides developers on-demand compute and storage to host web applications and services in Microsoft's data centers. Azure provides Microsoft with an online developer platform to compete with Amazon Web Services, Google App Engine and a growing number of smaller platforms. 

Azure was released as a "community technology preview" and won't be available until next year. Few details were released about pricing, with Ozzie saying it would be "competitive" and based on resource consumption.

“Today marks a turning point for Microsoft and the development community,” Ozzie said. “We have introduced a game-changing set of technologies that will bring new opportunities to Web developers and business developers alike. The Azure Services Platform, built from the ground up to be consistent with Microsoft’s commitment to openness and interoperability, promises to transform the way businesses operate and how consumers access their information and experience the Web.

"Most important, it gives our customers the power of choice to deploy applications in cloud-based Internet services or through on-premises servers, or to combine them in any way that makes the most sense for the needs of their business,” he added.

Here's a roundup of reaction from around the web:

  • Exactly what is Azure? Mary Jo Foley thinks it's an open question, but is here to help. "Now that the initial Microsoft PDC pixie dust has settled, developers are trying to digest exactly what Microsoft’s cloud platform is," she writes. "Here’s my attempt to explain it." Mary Jo walks readers through each layer of the network stack. 

  • The Register noted that Microsoft lagged Amazon, which recently began supporting Windows. "What could be Microsoft's saving grace and big differentiator is the fact that it works with tried and tested Windows server and tools software," Gavin Clarke writes, while adding that "you'd never have guessed this, though, judging by the way it threw everything into the Azure demo at PDC."

  • Steve Gillmor from TechCrunchIT: "Ozzie served notice that IT will remain in the Windows/Office grip but with an abstraction layer that blurs the on-premise and on-demand worlds."

  • James Urquhart found parts of Azure impressive, but saw a missed opportunity. "It's PaaS (Platform as a Service)," he writes. "There is no Amazon-killer, no opportunity for the masses to leverage Microsoft data centers, no ability to deploy 'raw' Windows applications into the cloud. Just a tool to force adoption of full scale .NET development and Microsoft products. Good for Microsoft, but will it win any converts?"

  • Todd Bishop at TechFlash noted that Ozzie "took the unusual step of acknowledging Amazon's existing EC2 cloud computing platform this morning as he announced Windows Azure. Ozzie said Microsoft had already been secretly planning its own system - under the code name 'Red Dog' - for a number of months by the time Amazon launched its service."

  • Drue Reeves at The Burton Group says with Azure, Microsoft is playing to its strength. "They are enabling their huge developer community to develop applications for the cloud infrastructure they are hosting within Microsoft's data center network," Drue writes. "If you're a developer of a windows application, you certainly want your application to run on Windows Azure. It's almost a no-brainer."

  • VentureBeat says Microsoft "will be targeting large, enterprise-size companies, rather than small businesses, but it will also try to serve the 'early adopter' crowd of developers and startups."

  • Nick Carr observes that "given Microsoft's enormous scale and influence in the software industry, its launch marks a milestone in the history of utility computing. The cloud is now firmly in the mainstream."

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