Microsoft Pushes Windows Azure to Play With the Big Clouds

With its new moves to deliver infrastructure as a service (IaaS) capabilities and provide support for Linux on its cloud platform, Microsoft is pushing Windows Azure into direct competition with market leader Amazon Web Services and hoping to use its connection with developers as leverage.

Microsoft€™s move to open Windows Azure up and launch a new infrastructure as a service play along with its initial platform as a service strategy can only be viewed as a bold move aimed directly at segment leader Amazon Web Services.

When Microsoft initially launched Windows Azure in 2010, the company hinted that infrastructure as a service (IaaS) would be a significant part of the strategy although the platform as a service (PaaS) component was clearly the dominant focus. Former Microsoft Server and Tools president Bob Muglia touted Windows Azure€™s IaaS promise perhaps before its time. But now Microsoft has delivered and the deliverable looks to be a good start, according to some.

Indeed, Microsoft announced IaaS capabilities as well as new Linux support for its Windows Azure cloud computing platform. Windows Azure will allow users to run OpenSUSE 12.1, CentOS 6.2, Ubuntu 12.04 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP2. They also will allow users to run Windows Server 2008 R2 and the Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate.

Microsoft announced a slew of new updates and services for Windows Azure, available June 7, that make it a more flexible, open and powerful platform and simplify building applications that span cloud and on-premises servers. The releases mark another milestone in Microsoft€™s road map of embracing open-source software (OSS) tools developers know, love and want to use to build applications in the cloud, the company said.

Microsoft announced Windows Azure Virtual Machines, which enable infrastructure as a service (IaaS) capabilities for Windows and Linux-based workloads, as well as the Windows Azure Virtual Network to provision and manage virtual private networks (VPNs) and securely extend on-premises networks into Windows Azure. Meanwhile, Windows Azure Websites enable developers to quickly and easily build and deploy Websites with support for multiple frameworks and popular open-source applications.

€œI think this release is a big deal. It represents Microsoft€™s first major adjustment in its ongoing effort to create the leading cloud application platform,€ John Rymer, an analyst with Forrester Research, told eWEEK. €œThe adjustment aligns Microsoft much better with the preferences of developers working in cloud.€

€œThe VM role and support for Linux are huge changes for Microsoft Azure,€ Rymer added. €œBoth moves open Azure€™s doors to a range of new applications€”and developers. In essence, Microsoft has added an Amazon-like flavor to Azure, acknowledging the huge amount of developer activity on Amazon Web Services. Microsoft had no choice but to make this move, in my view. Azure started out as a €˜Microsoft platform€™ [the successor to .NET], but it is now an open cloud platform. The VM role is crucial to achieving this goal, as it allows developers to stand up whatever environments they choose. Supporting Linux opens the door still further by allowing all those devs who prefer Linux to get involved with Azure as well.€