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2/10/2010
02:44 PM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
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Can Microsoft Catch Up by Giving Away Azure?

Microsoft Azure finally went into production amidst much fanfare. The long-awaited Azure platform is Microsoft's big bet in the cloud computing space, but can they catch up to AWS, Salesforce.com, Google, and other existing cloud players?

Microsoft Azure finally went into production amidst much fanfare. The long-awaited Azure platform is Microsoft's big bet in the cloud computing space, but can they catch up to AWS, Salesforce.com, Google, and other existing cloud players?

That said, it is no coincidence that Microsoft is basically giving away Azure to deserving government scientists for three years in a program between Microsoft Corp. and the National Science Foundation.

"Researchers will have access to Windows Azure for a three-year period, along with a support team to help researchers quickly integrate cloud technology into their research. Windows Azure hosts, scales and manages Web applications through Microsoft data centers. Microsoft researchers and developers will work with grant recipients to equip them with a set of common tools, applications and data collections that can be shared with the broad academic community, and also provide its expertise in research, science and cloud computing."

Once again Microsoft is late to the party. However, they continue to hold a special space in the hearts of many enterprises, a brand loyalty that most cloud computing providers just don't have. The concept here is to get as many users on the platform as possible, in the shortest amount of time. However, is that a good strategy for Microsoft?

If you look at the history of Microsoft they seem to get into games late, and still win. Their entrance into the emerging Web in the '90s was almost kicking and screaming after the Microsoft Network was released. However, once they set their sites on the Web, they owned the browser market after only a year.

The cloud is a bit different. Cloud computing providers have already established their presence in the market. It's going to be difficult to attack users who are already loyal to one or two of the larger players, that is... unless you're willing to give it away for free.

The reality of cloud computing is that the subscription cost of the platform has very little bearing on the ROI of the platform. Azure, like the other cloud providers, will have to prove to be productive in order to be truly cost effective. That also means being open, something that Microsoft has had issues with in the past. It does not look like the leopard has changed its stripes with Azure.

I do think Microsoft will gain a large portion of their existing market share in the cloud, those who are "Microsoft shops" and are waiting for Microsoft to let them know how and when to go to the cloud. That is actually a good move, considering that Microsoft is bound to maintain compatibility with existing systems built around .Net. The fact is, Microsoft can build some pretty impressive stuff when they put their mind to it.Microsoft Azure finally went into production amidst much fanfare. The long-awaited Azure platform is Microsoft's big bet in the cloud computing space, but can they catch up to AWS, Salesforce.com, Google, and other existing cloud players?

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