Windows Azure Key Tool in Microsoft Battle to Enlist Cloud Developers

Microsoft is hoping its history will help it win in the cloud market, where it's focused totally on wooing developers, developers, developers.

When it comes to the cloud, Microsoft is like the line in the old Avis ad: They try harder.

That's not to say the software company is necessarily number two in the cloud space; Microsoft clearly is behind cloud pioneer Amazon Web Services (AWS). But even AWS' status as leader in the cloud is being challenged by IBM.

In any event, the devices and services giant is leading with its strength when it comes to the cloud by appealing to developers. Microsoft is counting on its long-standing developer prowess to carry over into the cloud. While the effort is in its relatively early days, that bet looks to be paying off.

The formula is familiar. Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's vice president for Windows Azure, spent 10 years in Microsoft's Developer Division and maintains a keen interest in how developers interact with the Microsoft cloud.

As ZDNet reported, one of the first things Guthrie did when he joined the Windows Azure team in 2011 was hold an offsite meeting where he challenged team members to build an impromptu Windows Azure app using the Microsoft tools available at the time. When several members took longer than expected, Guthrie knew some changes needed to be made. With his background in the tooling world, Guthrie went to work advancing the toolset for Windows Azure.

"One of the things I've spent time on since I've been in Azure is focusing on how we have a great developer integration story and take advantage the millions of developers who use .NET and Visual Studio today," he told eWEEK. "Over the last year in particular, we had some good dialogue across the division and made some shared bets that you can see today and others you'll see in the future."

Today, Microsoft has "a really differentiated dev test offering, with the ability to use your Active Directory credentials to have enterprise access control, to have visual studio integration inside the IDE [integrated development environment], to have the TFS [Team Foundation Server] analytics and the Visual Studio Online browser editing support for Azure apps. Having all that come together is really starting to turn heads."

When it comes to winning the hearts and minds of cloud application developers, Microsoft is well-equipped to appeal to them based on its history with the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and its Professional Developers Conferences (PDCs, now Build) and dating back further to the old Geekfests at Microsoft events with pizza and cheap beer. Microsoft is known for its relationships with developers, certainly more so than Amazon.

"I would say that Amazon is definitely winning those who count their pennies," said Al Hilwa, an IDC analyst who focuses on software development.

Many developers out there—especially those running major apps—are focused on costs and tend to gravitate to infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings like AWS and Azure, Hilwa said.

"I have noticed that Azure is brought up often in discussions, so Microsoft appears to be making inroads," he told eWEEK. "A lot of Microsoft enterprise customers are using Azure in hybrid scenarios for testing or burst scenarios or for new projects. Another important player that I am hearing more and more about is We are noticing bigger enterprises are using and using it in a bigger way. Cloud computing is definitely winning developer hearts and minds."