Azure: Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Not at all New - InformationWeek

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Commentary
11/3/2008
08:34 AM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
Commentary
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Azure: Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Not at all New

Microsoft last week unleashed it's Azure Cloud Computing offering into the IT universe, where there is some excitement that Microsoft is finally in the Cloud Computing game. I say nothing new here; I expected better... I'm really not a Microsoft basher; I had hoped that Azure would approach the cloud computing problem a bit differently.

Microsoft last week unleashed it's Azure Cloud Computing offering into the IT universe, where there is some excitement that Microsoft is finally in the Cloud Computing game. I say nothing new here; I expected better.

The fact of the matter is that Microsoft has been building this for a long time, and it's late to the party. With existing Cloud Computing offerings from the likes of Salesforce.com and Amazon.com, this offering is merely more of the same.I've been hearing from those in and around Microsoft's project that this technology would be "game changing." However, at this point, it's "game playing," and I'm not sure how well their game will play when all is said and done.

You can think about the Microsoft offering as an on-demand platform with many components that work up from the primitive services, to the applications and processes. This pattern is very similar to the existing Cloud Computing and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offerings out there, perhaps a bit more simplistic.

At the lowest layer is Microsoft's Global Foundational Services (GFS), which works like a hardware abstraction layer (HAL) in Windows. This is the part of the platform that deals directly with the servers.

From there you move up to the Azure operating system (Level 1). This is the technology that used to be codenamed "Red Dog," which was spearheaded by Dave Cutler. Those of you who are as old as I am may remember that Dave Cutler was credited as the father of VMS and Windows NT, and he was one of the lead developers on Red Dog.

Moving up one layer you have a set of building block services. These services include Live Services, SQL Server Data Services, .Net Services, SharePoint Services, and Dynamics CRM Services. Developers will be able to build applications over these lower-level services when building applications. You should note that the SharePoint Services and CRM Services are just the platform primitives, and do not include any user interface elements.

Finally, at the top most layers, you have the Azure-hosted applications. These include SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Dynamics CRM Online. Moreover, you will have applications from "authorized" third-party providers.

What's missing? Innovation, for one thing. I'm really not a Microsoft basher; I had hoped that Azure would approach the cloud computing problem a bit differently. If you think about it, the ability to blur the lines between on-premise and off-premise computing resources is really where Microsoft could shine since they own the business desktop. While some of that is present, it did not come across in the architecture. However, I will hold my final conclusion until after I've had a chance to test this new service myself. I'll report back here as soon as that happens.

This, by the way, does not mean Azure is out of the game, only that it's out of the gate at a very slow start. In order to make an impact in this market, Microsoft will have to do much better.Microsoft last week unleashed it's Azure Cloud Computing offering into the IT universe, where there is some excitement that Microsoft is finally in the Cloud Computing game. I say nothing new here; I expected better... I'm really not a Microsoft basher; I had hoped that Azure would approach the cloud computing problem a bit differently.

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