Windows Azure, Microsoft's suite of cloud computing services, will soon float on without being bogged down by its sometimes divisive PC-era brand.
The software giant officially announced on March 25 that beginning in early April, its cloud computing platform will be renamed to Microsoft Azure. "This change reflects Microsoft's strategy and focus on Azure as the public cloud platform for customers as well as for our own services Office 365, Dynamics CRM, Bing, OneDrive, Skype, and Xbox Live," stated Steven Martin, general manager for Windows Azure, in a brief blog post.
Microsoft will institute the change on April 3, day two of the company's upcoming Build conference in San Francisco, noted ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley in her March 24 report. She argued that the move "made sense" given the platform's support for a variety of operating systems. Azure offered support for various Linux distributions since 2012. On March 12, Microsoft officially flipped the switch on Oracle virtual machines after a preview period.
The company's commitment to multiplatform support was echoed by Martin's announcement.
He observed that Azure currently supports "one of the broadest set of operating systems, languages, and services of any public cloud—from Windows, SQL and .NET to Python, Ruby, Node.js, Java, Hadoop, Linux, and Oracle." Martin added that his company is committed to delivering "an enterprise-grade cloud platform for the world's applications."
The strategy seems to be working. Last spring, Microsoft boasted that half of the Fortune 500 are using Azure. "In just a year, we have grown to over 200 services for our platform, more than doubled our customer base (now at 250,000) and are seeing an average of 1,000 new customers per day," Martin said in a June 14 statement.
Removing Windows from the company's cloud branding and marketing activities helps disassociate the platform from Microsoft's flagship operating system, and its strained history with governments, the open-source community and rival software makers. Martin hinted at a fresh start, asserting that in a "mobile-first, cloud-first, data-powered world, customers want a public cloud platform that supports their needs—whatever they may be—and that public cloud is Microsoft Azure."
The move comes less than two months into Satya Nadella's tenure as Microsoft's new CEO. As the former chief of the tech company's cloud computing and enterprise software units, the shift exemplifies his services-centric approach to an IT market that in recent years has taken a decidedly mobile- and cloud-enabled direction, largely at the expense of PC sales.
Nadella is expected to follow up with another major cloud-related announcement on March 27, the long-awaited Office app for iPad. In an invitation sent to journalists, Microsoft said that the CEO will discuss "news related to the intersection of cloud and mobile." The company recently made waves by releasing a free version of OneNote, the cloud-friendly Office note-taking app, for the Mac.