You’re Running Out Of Excuses To Not Try Microsoft Windows Azure

James Staten

If you have dismissed Microsoft as a cloud platform player up to now, you might want to rethink that notion. With the latest release of Windows Azure here at Build, Microsoft’s premier developer shindig, this cloud service has become a serious contender for the top spot in cloud platforms. And all the old excuses that may have kept you away are quickly being eliminated.

In typical Microsoft fashion, the Redmond, Washington giant is attacking the cloud platform market with a competitive furor that can only be described as faster follower. In 2008, Microsoft quickly saw the disruptive change that Amazon Web Services (AWS) represented and accelerated its own lab project centered around delivering Windows as a cloud platform. Version 1.0 of Azure was decidedly different and immature and thus struggled to establish its place in the market. But with each iteration, Microsoft has expanded Azure’s applicability, appeal, and maturity. And the pace of change for Windows Azure has accelerated dramatically under the new leadership of Satya Nadella. He came over from the consumer Internet services side of Microsoft, where new features and capabilities are normally released every two weeks — not every two years, as had been the norm in the server and tools business prior to his arrival.

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Oracle Continues to Make Cloud Progress

James Staten

Well if you're going to make a dramatic about face from total dismissal of cloud computing, this is a relatively credible way to do it. Following up on its announcement of a serious cloud future at Oracle Open World 2011, the company delivered new cloud services with some credibility at this last week's show. It's a strategy with laser focus on selling to Oracle's own installed base and all guns aimed at Salesforce.com. While the promise from last year was a homegrown cloud strategy, most of this year's execution has been bought. The strategy is essentially to deliver enterprise-class applications and middleware any way you want it - on-premise, hosted and managed or true cloud. A quick look at where they are and how they got here:

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Microsoft Moves to Level the Cloud Platform Playing Field

James Staten

In typical Microsoft fashion, they don't catch a new trend right with the first iteration but they keep at it and eventually strike the right tone and in more cases than not, get good enough. And often good enough wins. That seems the be the pattern playing out with Windows Azure, its cloud platform.

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Cloud Inefficiency - Bad Habits Are Hard To Break

James Staten

We all have habits we would like to (and should) break such as leaving the lights on in rooms we are no longer in and good habits we want to encourage such as recycling plastic bottles and driving our cars more efficiently. We often don't because habits are hard to change and often the impact isn't immediate or all that meaningful to us. The same has long been true in IT. But keep up these bad habits in the cloud, and it will cost you - sometimes a lot.

As developers, we often ask for more resources from the infrastructure & operations (I&O) teams than we really need so we don't have to go back later and ask for more - too painful and time consuming. We also often don't know how many resources our code might need, so we might as well take as much as we can get. But do we ever give it back when we learn it is more than we need? 

On the other hand, I&O often isn't any better. The first rule we learned about capacity planning was that it's more expensive to underestimate resource needs and be wrong than to overestimate, and we always seem to consume more resources eventually. 

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Citrix Breaks Away From OpenStack

James Staten

Today's move by Citrix to put its CloudStack IaaS solution into the Apache Foundation says more about the state of the cloud market than it does about OpenStack. As our Fall 2011 Forrsights Hardware Survey shows, about 36% of enterprise IT leaders are prioritizing and planning to invest in IaaS this year. That means they need solutions today and thus service providers and cloud software vendors need answers they can take to market now. OpenStack, while progressing well, simply isn't at this point yet.

Second, Citrix needed to clarify the position of its current open source–based solution. Ever since Citrix joined OpenStack, its core technology has been in somewhat of a limbo state. The code in cloudstack.org overlaps with a lot of the OpenStack code base, and Citrix's official stance had been that when OpenStack was ready, it would incorporate it. This made it hard for a service provider or enterprise to bet on CloudStack today, under fear that they would have to migrate to OpenStack over time. That might still happen, as Citrix has kept the pledge to incorporate OpenStack software if and when the time is right but they are clearly betting their fortunes on cloudstack.org's success. 
 
There are myriad other benefits that come from this move. Two of the biggest are:
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Has Amazon Solved Its Private Cloud Dilemma?

James Staten

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is great, but many of our enterprise clients want those cloud services and values delivered on premise, behind their firewall, which may feel more comfortable for protecting their intellectual property (even if it isn't). AWS isn't very interested in providing an on-premise version of its solution (and I don't blame them). Today's partnership announcement with Eucalyptus Systems doesn't address this customer demand but does give some degree of assurance that your private cloud can be AWS compatible.

This partnership is a key value for organizations who have already seen significant adoption of AWS by their developers, as those empowered employees have established programmatic best practices for using these cloud services — procedures that call AWS' APIs directly. Getting them to switch to your private cloud (or use both) would mean a significant change for them. And winning over your developers to use your cloud is key to a successful private cloud strategy. It also could double your work to design and deploy cloud management solutions that span the two environments. 

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Top 10 Cloud Predictions For 2012: The Awkward Teenage Years Are Upon Us

James Staten

As 2011 begins to wind down, we can look back on the progress made over the last 11 months with a lot of pride. The market stepped significantly forward with big gains in adoption by leaders Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Rackspace, significant growth in the use of clouds for big data, training, test and development, the creation of landmark new services, and the dawning of the App-Internet era. Cloud technologies matured nearly across the board as did transparency, security, and best practice use and adoption. But there’s much more growth ahead as the cloud is no longer a toddler but has entered the awkward teenage years. And much as found in human development, the cloud is now beginning to fight for its own identity, independence, and place in society. The next few years will be a painful period of rebellion, defiance, exploration, experimentation, and undoubtedly explosive creativity. While many of us would prefer our kids go from the cute pre-teen period straight to adulthood, we don’t become who we are without surviving the teenage years. For infrastructure & operations professionals, charged with

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Public Clouds Prove I&O Pros Are From Venus And Developers Are From Mars

James Staten

Forrester just published parts I & II of its market overview of the public cloud market and these reports, written primarily for the Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) professionals, reveal as much about you – the customers of the clouds – as it does about the clouds themselves.

As discussed during our client teleconference about these reports, clearly the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) market is maturing and evolving and the vendors are adapting their solutions to deliver greater value to their current customers and appeal to a broader set of buyers. In the case of pure clouds such as Amazon Web Services, GoGrid and Joyent, the current customers are developers who are mostly building new applications on these platforms. Their demands focus on enabling greater innovation, performance, scale, autonomy and productivity. To broaden the appeal of their cloud services, they aim to deliver better transparency, monitoring, security and support – all things that appeal more to I&O and security & risk managers (SRM).

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Silk Browser, The BIG Leap For Amazon’s Fire, Shows Innovative Use Of App Internet

Richard Fichera

My colleague James Staten recently wrote about AutoDesk Cloud as an exemplar of the move toward App Internet, the concept of implementing applications that are distributed between local and cloud resources in a fashion that is transparent to the user except for the improved experience. His analysis is 100% correct, and AutoDesk Cloud represents a major leap in CAD functionality, intelligently offloading the inherently parallel and intensive rendering tasks and facilitating some aspects of collaboration.

But (and there’s always a “but”), having been involved in graphics technology on and off since the '80s, I would say that “cloud” implementation of rendering and analysis is something that has been incrementally evolving for decades, with hundreds of well-documented distributed environments with desktops fluidly shipping their renderings to local rendering and analysis farms that would today be called private clouds, with the results shipped back to the creating workstations. This work was largely developed and paid for either by universities and by media companies as part of major movie production projects. Some of them were of significant scale, such as “Massive,” the rendering and animation farm for "Lord of the Rings" that had approximately 1,500 compute nodes, and a subsequent installation at Weta that may have up to 7,000 nodes. In my, admittedly arguable, opinion, the move to AutoDesk Cloud, while representing a major jump in capabilities by making the cloud accessible to a huge number of users, does not represent a major architectural innovation, but rather an incremental step.

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OpenStack: Time To Capitalize On The Momentum

James Staten

In the IaaS market the open source torch has officially been passed from Eucalyptus to OpenStack, a community effort that is showing strong momentum in both vendor participation and end user interest. But now it needs to start showing staying power, and that's just what I expect to see at this week's OpenStack Design Summit in Boston. What started as an effort to leverage the open community to help advance the technologies started by Rackspace and NASA has now turned into a vibrant community advancing IaaS technologies at a rapid pace. What it was lacking up until this summer was solid go-to-market momentum. But now:

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