Why Windows Azure?

A lot of our customers – including large Enterprises and Software Vendors – ask our opinion on the best cloud platform to run their applications and workloads. Two to three years ago there was only one decision to make; to Cloud or not to Cloud? Amazon Web Services was the defacto standard for those pioneers who chose Cloud. Fast forward to today, the decision to use the cloud is now the no-brainer for most businesses, however, with the cloud market becoming such a fiercely competitive space, ripe with innovation and differing strategies, the decision of which cloud becomes the more critical and daunting one.

When I read analyst opinion comparing the major cloud offerings, I’m surprised to see Windows Azure is often omitted. This leads me to believe these analysts are clearly not doing their homework or, they don’t have a deep understanding of the cloud and how this relates to the challenges businesses are faced with today.

Amazon Web Services are numero uno right now – that’s not up for debate. However, I see Windows Azure as the clear runner up and hot on Amazon’s heels. My prediction? Hold on to your seats for this one. I predict that Windows Azure will take the lead in 2-3 years’ time.

The momentum of Windows Azure is truly impressive. Microsoft, who have been criticized in the past for moving too slowly to capitalize on industry trends, have really proven the naysayers wrong with the speed and agility in which they have innovated and improved their cloud offering. If you look at Scott Guthrie’s blog, which is a good yardstick for the pace of Azure development, there have been 18 major announcements on new Azure features in the last 7 months! The rate of progress with the IaaS offering has been particularly notable. Scott Guthrie, affectionately known as “The Gu”, is the VP of Windows Azure and is essentially a god to Microsoft developers. While Scott has clearly made a monumental impact to Windows Azure and demonstrated impressive leadership since being promoted to run Azure in 2011, there is also a team of incredibly smart and visionary engineers that have designed and built a platform that is second to none. Yes you heard me right, putting market share aside, I believe Windows Azure is the most complete and capable offering in the market today. Big call huh?

Aside from the many commercial and enterprise-focused features (Backup services, Active Directory, Managed SQL Server, Private-Public cloud integration, Hadoop as a Service etc), that make Azure a natural fit for most organizations, we at GreenButton are excited by some of the lesser-known capabilities. The GreenButton Cloud Fabric platform for cloud-enabling and managing Big Compute and Big Data apps can place heavy demands on infrastructure, particularly when you look at the more traditional High Performance Computing (HPC) workloads such as Seismic Processing, Computational Fluid Dynamics and Genomic Sequencing algorithms. Many of these applications require extremely low latency networks to join many computers together in a cluster. The expensive network configurations are typically built around Infiniband and use Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) to provide around 2 micro seconds latency. None of the major cloud providers support Infiniband today. Microsoft however announced their new HPC hardware complete with Infiniband a little while ago and we expect to see this coming online soon. The cloud has long been perceived by many of the HPC traditionalists as an inappropriate or ill-equipped alternative for High Performance Technical Computing – particularly for those workloads that require very low latency networks. This perception is rapidly changing as both Commercial and Research & Science facilities are finding the massive economic benefits the cloud offers for these spikey-by-nature workloads hard to resist. With this latest offering, Microsoft claim a real leadership position in this space. Of course those with HPC applications will want to talk to us to get their workloads ported to the cloud and manage data and governance without any fuss…

We have other strategic partners who certainly have their strengths. HP are a late starter but making notable progress on articulating a thought out strategy. IBM shouldn’t be underestimated with their acquisition of SoftLayer and their High Performance Computing and Analytics pedigree. VMware still dominate the Private Cloud and have a seamless Hybrid Cloud offering now. But I see Microsoft best positioned to make the most impact in the near term.

Microsoft is in the process of shifting to a more functional organization across Devices & Consumer and Commercial. Within those groups we should expect to see more collaboration and more tightly integrated products and services. This is an exciting transition and one which should deliver a more connected and seamless experience to customers.

Microsoft have demonstrated a strategy towards offering vertically integrated services. Windows Azure Media Services is a good example. I think this is bang on from a strategy point of view; Customers want higher-value services that are consumed on-demand. They also want these services to be connected with their existing ecosystems. This is surely the end goal of all this cloud malarkey.

It’s an incredibly exciting industry to be a part of right now. Our vision has always been to make the power of on-demand computing available to anyone at the push of a button – whether you’re a “one-man-band” or a Fortune 500. To consumerize High Performance Computing. To allow the little guy to compete with the largest in their industry without constraints. Microsoft and Windows Azure are playing a key role in the realization of this disruptive vision.

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6 Responses to Why Windows Azure?

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  • Canim says:

    Yeah, knowing Microsoft it will abaondn this line of products in a few years (see Visual Studio history and the phrase Microsoft no longer supports [fill in blank] ) and we’re stuck with our data strewn across the world, unable to access it. Ironically, our data WILL be accessible by every malicious person on this planet.

  • lucrar com internet says:

    Thanks for finally talking about > Why Windows Azure?
    | < Loved it!

  • Reynaldo says:

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked
    submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyways, just wanted to say great blog!

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