In 2014 I wrote about Microsoft and Dell’s joint Cloud Platform System offering, Microsoft’s initial foray into an “Azure-Like” experience in the enterprise data center. While not a complete or totally transparent Azure experience, it was a definite stake in the ground around Microsoft’s intentions to provide enterprise Azure with hybrid on-premise and public cloud (Azure) interoperability.
I got it wrong about other partners – as far as I know, Dell is the only hardware partner to offer Microsoft CPS – but it looks like my idiot-proof guess that CPS was a stepping stone toward a true on premise Azure was correct, with Microsoft today announcing its technology preview of Azure Stack, the first iteration of a true enterprise Azure offering with hybrid on-prem and public cloud interoperability.
Azure Stack is in some ways a parallel offering to the existing Windows Server/Systems Center and Azure Pack offering, and I believe it represents Microsoft’s long-term vision for enterprise IT, although Microsoft will do nothing to compromise the millions of legacy environments who want to incremental enhance their Windows environment. But for those looking to embrace a more complete cloud experience, Azure Stack is just what the doctor ordered – an Azure environment that can run in the enterprise that has seamless access to the immense Azure public cloud environment.
On the partner front, this time Microsoft will be introducing this as a pure software that can run on one or more standard x86 servers, no special integration required, although I’m sure there will be many bundled offerings of Azure Stack and integration services from partners.
First we need to define what we mean by “enterprise cloud”. For this definition, the minimal criteria set includes: robust security, reliable performance, disaster recovery, growing set of services, constantly investing and a great and growing ecosystem of partners. Based on this definition (along with the tremendous growth in public cloud), then all of the public cloud leaders are indeed “Enterprise-class”. In short, the term "Enterprise-class" is fundamentally a term targeted to allay the cloud fears of enterprise technology managers.
Providers are adapting to offer managed services for the megaclouds.
The cloud market in China is changing fast. The official launch of the commercial operations of Microsoft Azure (Azure) earlier this year started a new chapter (as detailed in my March blog post), while last weekend’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) summit was held in China for the first time and announced the third episode of this war. AWS is speeding up building its ecosystem and starting to challenge both Microsoft’s early-mover advantage and the market share of other global and local players.
To help CIOs and enterprise architects set up their hybrid cloud strategy in the region, we’ve put together a brief comparison of the Azure and AWS offerings and ecosystems in China:
Operations.Microsoft made Azure available for preview in China on June 6, 2013 and announced its commercial launch on March 25, 2014, stating that it would be operated by 21ViaNet and have a service-level agreement (SLA) of 99.95%. It has two dedicated data centers in Beijing and Shanghai. AWS announced the availability of its “Beijing region” in China on December 18, 2013, but it still hasn’t announced its official commercial launch, other than a partnership with Cloud Valley. Currently, AWS has only one data center in Ningxia province.
Offerings.Azure offerings cover services for compute (VM, websites, cloud services, etc.); data (storage, SQL database, HDInsight, backup, etc.); applications (service bus, Active Directory, CDN, media services, notification services, etc.); and networking (virtual network, Traffic Manager, etc.). Azure also provides other solutions, such as infrastructure services, data management, and application development and deployment.
The rise of the DevOps role in the enterprise and the increasing requirements of agility beyond infrastructure and applications make the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market one to watch for both CIOs and enterprise architecture professionals. On December 9, the membership of Cloud Foundry, a major PaaS open source project, announced the formation of the Cloud Foundry Foundation.
In my view, this is as important as the establishment of OpenStack foundation in 2012, which was a game-changing move for the cloud industry. Here’s why:
PaaS is becoming an important alternative to middleware stacks. Forrester defines PaaS as a complete application platform for multitenant cloud environments that includes development tools, runtime, and administration and management tools and services. (See our Forrester Wave evaluation for more detail on the space and its vendors.) In the cloud era, it’s a transformational alternative to established middleware stacks for the development, deployment, and administration of custom applications in a modern application platform, serving as a strategic layer between infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) with innovative tools.
Cloud Foundry is one major open source PaaS software. Cloud Foundry as a technology was designed and architected by Derek Collison and built in the Ruby and Go programming languages by Derek and Vadim Spivak (wiki is wrong!). VMware released it as open source in 2011 after Derek joined the company. Early adopters of Cloud Foundry include large multinationals like Verizon, SAP, NTT, and SAS, as well as Chinese Internet giants like Baidu.
On October 20 at TechEd, Microsoft quietly slipped in what looks like a potential game-changing announcement in the private/hybrid cloud world when they rolled out Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS), an integrated hardware/software system that combines an Azure-consistent on premise cloud with an optimized hardware stack from Dell.
Forrester attended Microsoft’s second annual Asia Pacific Analyst Summit in Singapore last week for an update on the company’s progress in transforming into a devices and services company. The event highlighted Microsoft’s strengths and exposed some obvious challenges, which I’ve shared below. Forrester clients can access further event-related analysis and implications here.
Day One: Impressive Capabilities And A Strong Understanding Of Customer Needs
Day one was well designed and delivered, with a clear focus on customer and partner case studies and go-to-market strategies based on three core imperatives:
Transforming IT. Focusing primarily on Cloud OS, Windows Azure, and Office 365, this imperative highlights Microsoft-enabled capabilities and resources to help IT organizations transform both internal data centers and IT delivery.
Engaging customers and employees. This imperative essentially combines mobility and social to help organizations thrive in the age of the customer by delivering improved customer service and customer and user experiences.
Accelerating customer insight and business process improvement. This imperative targets the changing needs and expectations for data and information access and real-time decision making via a combination of traditional analytics and big data.
Today's re-org at Microsoft comes amidst mixed success as they straddle the gap between capricious individual consumers and the cash-strapped, risk-averse needs of enterprise IT buyers who find themselves years behind the demands of their own capricious workers, who are also consumers when they go home. Windows 8 shows us that Microsoft has more learning to do about where to place those bets, but we also think their work on server, cloud and hybrid cloud is excellent, and that their longer-term strategy is viable. We see this organizational re-alignment as very positive.
The Server and Tools Business becomes Cloud and Enterprise Engineering Group
Satya Nadella and Scott Guthrie both have done a great job of driving Agile development and continuous delivery into every team in STB and that is resulting in faster moving and more compelling products and services. They deserve a lot of credit for this and so putting even more under them seems a good thing. The key is whether it is the right things.
For perspective: one of Microsoft's greatest strengths is that they give smart people development tools that are extremely easy to use and deceptively powerful. So much so that generations of developers will commit themselves and careers to mastery of Visual Studio, for example. Microsoft democratizes software development by lowering the barriers to entry like no other company. The shift to cloud gives them the chance to do it again, and the improvements in Visual Studio 2013 shown at BUILD in San Francisco are superb and stretch smoothly from the datacenter to the cloud.
Forrester attended Microsoft’s Asia Pacific Analyst Summit in Singapore last week for a comprehensive and very timely strategy update with less than a month to go before the launch of Windows 8. Organized under a general theme of Microsoft’s New Era, the update highlighted Microsoft’s strategy for remaining dominant in the post-PC era, where mobility, consumerization, social, and cloud have driven massive IT industry innovation and disruption. Three key observations from our analysts in attendance:
Azure is emerging as a key strength as organizations increasingly leverage hybrid cloud approaches. As both a leading provider of public and private cloud services (directly and via hosting partners) and a strategic platform provider within enterprise data centers, Microsoft is very well positioned to embed hybrid cloud capabilities within its platform. This will benefit organizations of all sizes seeking to lower the cost of computing and increase business agility. While we were encouraged by how software license-agnostic Azure’s business leaders appear to be, we believe Microsoft can do a better job of leading with Azure in the enterprise market instead of leading so consistently with its traditional licensed software products.
Windows 8 devices will help boost Microsoft’s standing in the mobility market. Microsoft showcased a number of prelaunch Windows 8 devices from its OEM partners, and it’s clear that consumers will have a much better lineup of mobile devices to choose from in the future. Microsoft also presented several Windows Phone 8 smartphones from Nokia and Samsung and has wisely implemented a strategy to identify the top mobile apps in each Asia Pacific country and support app developers in creating versions for the Microsoft platform.
A project I’m working on for an approximately half-billion dollar company in the health care industry has forced me to revisit Hyper-V versus VMware after a long period of inattention on my part, and it has become apparent that Hyper-V has made significant progress as a viable platform for at least medium enterprises. My key takeaways include:
Hyper-V has come a long way and is now a viable competitor in Microsoft environments up through mid-size enterprise as long as their DR/HA requirements are not too stringent and as long as they are willing to use Microsoft’s Systems Center, Server Management Suite and Performance Resource Optimization as well as other vendor specific pieces of software as part of their management environment.
Hyper-V still has limitations in VM memory size, total physical system memory size and number of cores per VM compared to VMware, and VMware boasts more flexible memory management and I/O options, but these differences are less significant that they were two years ago.
For large enterprises and for complete integrated management, particularly storage, HA, DR and automated workload migration, and for what appears to be close to 100% coverage of workload sizes, VMware is still king of the barnyard. VMware also boasts an incredibly rich partner ecosystem.
For cloud, Microsoft has a plausible story but it is completely wrapped around Azure.
While I have not had the time (or the inclination, if I was being totally honest) to develop a very granular comparison, VMware’s recent changes to its legacy licensing structure (and subsequent changes to the new pricing structure) does look like license cost remains an attraction for Microsoft Hyper-V, especially if the enterprise is using Windows Server Enterprise Edition.