When compared to other PaaS offerings like Heroku, Cloud Foundry and Engine Yard, developers felt that Windows Azure is too prescriptive and forces too much of refactoring to move even simple consumer web applications. These applications need the underlying platform to be highly elastic and due to Windows Azure architecture, achieving rapid elasticity was complex. AWS and other PaaS offerings score high on auto scale capabilities. I always felt that the Windows Azure architecture is more appropriate for Line of Business applications than consumer web applications. To address this, Microsoft is adding a new feature called Windows Azure Websites. Based on what I have been reading, this looks like a perfect web application hosting environment on Azure. Popular CMS frameworks and lightweight web applications need a flexible environment. Though Windows Azure’s architecture provides an extremely robust and stable platform, forced these website to go through a major refactoring thus limiting the portability and scalability. Windows Azure Websites may remove all these constraints and dependencies to deploy the web applications. Recent addition of git support to Windows is an indication of this. Developers will be able to deploy their web applications in just a few seconds from the command line. This will bring Windows Azure to the same level playing field as other PaaS players.
The second major enhancement, which many have been speculating, is the support for Linux VMs. Technically, Windows Azure is designed to run any VM running any OS. Since it is based on the same hypervisor (Hyper-V) that can support Linux, Windows Azure could run Linux from day one. But it has been a business decision rather than a technical decision for Microsoft to support Linux. This is the most surprising announcement from Microsoft as they always considered Linux as their biggest competitor. With Windows Azure’s track record and stability, Microsoft will attract new set of customers through this feature. I am expecting many startups to consider running their LAMP stack on Windows Azure. This is all set to offer a credible alternative to Amazon Web Services to run LAMP based applications.
Hybrid Cloud is becoming the key enabler for enterprise Cloud adoption. Amazon is betting on their Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) to on-board enterprises onto AWS. Very few players have a solid Hybrid Cloud strategy in the market. Windows Azure Virtual Network brings the hybrid capability to Windows Azure. This will let enterprises open up a direct connection to Windows Azure through a VPN. Given the strong presence of Microsoft in the enterprise, they are better placed than Amazon in bringing enterprise Line of Business applications to the Cloud. With the VM and IaaS support, I am expecting that customers will move Active Directory, SQL Server, SharePoint workloads to Windows Azure.
Finally, the ability to deploy applications from the command line from Mac and Windows will be a big draw with the developers. Till date, Eclipse integration for PHP and Java platforms looked incomplete. If Microsoft ships the right set of command line tools integrated with git, they are in the right track to get more Cloud developers on their side.
It is interesting to see RightScale, an industry leader in the multi cloud management already announce support for the new IaaS and Hybrid capabilities of Windows Azure. It is an indication that MS is serious about making Windows Azure the preferred platform for businesses and developers.
I am eagerly waiting to watch the live streaming event tonight to catch Scott Guthrie demo these new features! We will bring more insights on the latest Windows Azure announcements as they unfold. Stay tuned!
- Janakiram MSV, Chief Editor, CloudStory.in