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Microsoft Azure Tops Cloud Developer Platform Survey

Microsoft Azure bests VMware in Evans Data survey of cloud developers, but Google and Amazon aren't far behind.

Charles Babcock

September 14, 2012

5 Min Read

Microsoft's investment in developer supplements for its Azure cloud environment is paying off: Azure is the leading cloud among developers, with 36% of 400 surveyed using it in some fashion, according to developer surveying firm Evans Data.

The results might get lost in the clutter of almost daily cloud survey announcements, but for the fact that Evans Data tends to attract independent, including open source-oriented, developers to its online surveys.

In the past, Microsoft spokesmen have been somewhat skeptical that Evans Data surveys reached a balanced sample of the developer population. Case in point: a 2003 survey that showed developers turning away from Windows in favor of Linux. Indeed, some of Evans' results have seemed to favor Java and other open source developer communities over Microsoft's Visual Studio and its .Net language set.

With this survey, Microsoft may see some payback for its heavy investment in putting developer services into Azure. Second to Windows Azure was Google Storage at 29%, which offers developers five GB of free storage for an initial project. Amazon Web Services was third at 28%. Evans Data simply aggregated AWS as a whole, rather than divvying up S3 storage or EC2 compute engine.

[ Want to learn more about what the previous survey showed about developers' attitudes toward the best cloud computing environment? See VMware's Cloud Foundry Ranked Top Developer Platform. ]

Microsoft has an inherent advantage in an Evans Data-style survey now because its large .Net developer community is concentrated on Azure, while Java, Ruby, or PHP developers are spread across many different clouds, including AWS, Salesforce's Heroku, or VMware-compatible, public infrastructure-as-a-service sites that remain out of sight in a developer survey.

Evans Data announced the results of its biannual cloud survey while providing a minimum amount of backup data for public consumption. Ben Hanley, senior analyst, said data sought via several InformationWeek questions "was very expensive and each data point is proprietary." Evans Data, like other research groups, sells its reports; in recent years they've sold for $995 to $10,000.

The languages most frequently used by developers participating in the survey were: Java, 64%; C++, 60%; C#, 58%; and PHP, 49%. Developers typically work with more than one language at a time, with one language tending to dominate, at most, 50% of their efforts, explained Hanley.

Microsoft has encouraged C# and other .Net language users to go to Azure by making familiar toolsets in the enterprise compatible with similar tools on Azure. It first announced Azure at its Professional Developer's Conference in Los Angeles in mid-November 2009. Since then Microsoft has provided an installer for tools that can be used in Azure that can detect which version of Visual Studio a developer group is using, then install tools that are compatible with that version. That compatibility makes it easier to invoke Microsoft's IIS Web server and other components for applications. Likewise, Microsoft has made data handling easier in the cloud by coordinating operations between SQL Server in the enterprise and SQL Azure in the cloud. SQL Azure can handle unstructured data, or it can be used to run SQL queries against structured data. An automated SQL Azure Sync capability can replicate data sets used on one with data stored on the other.

Asked which tool features in the cloud are most important to Microsoft developers, Hanley said he couldn't be specific: "The strength of the Microsoft Developer Network and Microsoft's support of it are undoubtedly some of the reasons for Azure's success," he wrote back in an email message.

The survey showed, in general, multiple types of developers using cloud environments value reliability and uptime first, and price for service second. Most cloud users say security is a top concern, but among developers, it is fourth on their list of four top priorities. Number three was ease of automatic scaling, according to Hanley.

The survey further finds that developers have the most confidence in the security of their public cloud environments when they are members of a corporate enterprise development group. Ninety-three percent of the members of such groups said they were somewhat or highly confident of the security in place. Ninety-two percent of custom, system integrator, and value-added reseller developers said the same, joined by 92% of scientific developers. Eighty-three percent of original equipment manufacturer developers expressed a similar level of confidence, while only 70% of corporate workgroup developers felt somewhat or highly confident of the security in place.

Developers were more united on another issue: saving time while executing a project. Twenty-eight percent said they saved 20% of the time it would otherwise take through development in the cloud, the equivalent of a day a week, pointed out Hanley. A total of 86% said they saved some amount of time using a cloud platform.

The reasons for saving time included: ease of access to needed systems and system storage, and redirecting time formerly spent in procurement to do development work in the cloud.

Last November, VMware's Cloud Foundry emerged as cloud developers' favorite cloud environment in which to work. Ten months later, Microsoft has risen to the top of the pack. It's possible that Heroku, part of Salesforce.com but hosting its environment on AWS, may grow to host more developers under its new ownership. Still, it's a strong Ruby on Rails development environment, and Ruby didn't make the list of top languages used in the cloud. Java remains equal to or commanding a larger number of developers than .Net, but until a survey can combine their activity across many clouds, Microsoft's Azure may remain on top.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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