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.
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:
The long-rumored changing of the guard at VMware finally took place last week and with it came down a stubborn strategic stance that was a big client dis-satisfier. Out went the ex-Microsoft visionary who dreamed of delivering a new "cloud OS" that would replace Windows Server as the corporate standard and in came a pragmatic refocusing on infrastructure transformation that acknowledges the heterogeneous reality of today's data center.
Paul Maritz will move into a technology strategy role at EMC where he can focus on how the greater EMC company can raise its relevance with developers. Clearly, EMC needs developer influence and application-level expertise, and from a stronger, full-portfolio perspective. Here, his experience can be more greatly applied -- and we expect Paul to shine in this role. However, I wouldn't look to see him re-emerge as CEO of a new spin out of these assets. At heart, Paul is more a natural technologist and it's not clear all these assets would move out as one anyway.
On July 11, 2012, SingTel launched its PowerON Compute cloud service in Hong Kong. While certainly interesting on its own, I believe this announcement is particularly noteworthy as a harbinger of things to come.
Some key points to consider:
As a hybrid offering, PowerON Compute is a dynamic infrastructure services solution hosted in SingTel’s data centers in Singapore, Australia, and now Hong Kong. The computing resources (e.g., CPU, memory, storage) can be accessed either via a public Internet connection or a private secured network.
This announcement confirms the findings of my February 2012 report, “Sizing the Cloud Markets in Asia Pacific”: that market demand for cloud-based computing resources in Asia Pacific (AP) will rapidly shift from infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) to dynamic infrastructure services.
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.
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.
If you wanted to see the full spectrum of cloud choices that are coming to market today you only have to look at these two efforts as they are starting to evolve. They represent the extremes. And ironically both held analyst events this week.
OpenStack is clearly an effort by a vendor (Rackspace) to launch a community to help advance technology and drive innovation around a framework that multiple vendors can use to bring myriad cloud services to market and deliver differentiated values. Whereas Oracle, who gave analysts a brief look inside its public cloud efforts this week, is taking a completely closed and self-built approach that looks to fulfill all cloud values from top to bottom.
While the bulk of the enterprise IT market grumbles about the maturity and security of cloud computing services, it looks like the media & entertainment segment is just doing it. At the annual conference for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in Las Vegas, myriad technology vendors are showing off their solutions that are transforming the way video content gets to us and behind the scenes there appears to be a lot of cloud computing making this happen. And there is a strong fit between these two industries because their business and economic models are evolving in complementary ways.
Sure, we all know that video streaming to your phone, tablet and TV is the new normal, but how this is accomplished is changing under the covers and cloud computing brings the economic model that maps better to the business of media and entertainment. You see, while broadcasting is a steady state business, the production process and eventual popularity of any particular video segment or show isn't. The workflow behind the scenes is evolving rapidly — or more appropriately devolving.
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: