Microsoft Brings Windows Azure Services to Windows Server

When Ray Ozzie announced Windows Azure back in 2008 at the PDC, he called Windows Azure as the Cloud OS. Since then many Microsoft spokespersons referred to Windows Azure as the Cloud OS. But it sounded more of a marketing jargon than a true Cloud OS as Windows Azure only exposed an abstracted .NET layer like any other traditional PaaS player. But with the recent updates to Windows Azure, it started to justify the claim of it being the Cloud OS. With the support of Web sites, VMs and the good old Web Role and Worker Role rechristened as Cloud Services, Windows Azure looked complete in terms of the offerings. It now supports most of the use cases required by startups, SMEs and enterprises.

On June 10th at the WPC, Microsoft has announced that the Windows Azure Web Sites, VMs and the Service Management Portal along with the API are a part of Windows Server 2012. This offering is currently targeted at the hosters than enterprise customers. But it is clear that eventually the enterprise customers get to access these capabilities. This is a strategic announcement that will have a significant impact on the Cloud ecosystem. With this, Microsoft aims at transforming every hoster into a potential Cloud service provider overnight.

Windows Azure Web Sites is a feature that makes it a breeze to deploy data driven Web Applications written in classic ASP, ASP.NET, PHP or Node.js. Developers can use a wide range of tools including git, FTP, Visual Studio or Web Matrix to push the code. This becomes a lightweight PaaS that the hoster can expose to the customers. By implementing this feature, a hoster can on-board more customers with ease as it reduces the friction of dealing with the proprietary control panel and provisioning the resources for each application. It brings in self-service capabilities for the developers to deal with the runtime environment.

Windows Azure Virtual Machines feature aims at the Infrastructure as a Service. By deploying System Center 2012 running on Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012, a hoster can expose IaaS capabilities to their customers. The best thing for the customer is that he can move the Windows or Linux VHD images that are built to run on the Private Cloud to the hoster or even to the Windows Azure environment. This brings the ultimate portability of VMs across the Private Cloud, Managed Hosting and Public Cloud.

Windows Azure Services also empower the hoster to expose the Service Management API. This is the biggest advantage for the hoster as he can adopt the API without ever designing and developing it. Customers appreciate the API because of its extensibility. It makes it easy to integrate with existing set of tools by automating provisioning and de-provisioning of resources. Since it is compatible with the Windows Azure Public Cloud API, the standard set of tools and libraries that Microsoft and the 3rd parties published will work without any modification. Along with the Service Management API, the hoster can also take advantage of the Service Manager Portal. This is the last requirement for hoster to become a Cloud service provider. This will enable the self-service options for the customers to deal with their deployments and billing directly. This relieves the hoster from developing complex and expensive UI layer to manage the Web Sites and VMs. Since it carries the same look and feel of Windows Azure Management Portal, customers will see a familiar interface.

Microsoft has announced that GoDaddy will be one of the first hosters to implement Windows Azure capabilities. Apprenda, the .NET Private PaaS provider is one of the first to integrate with the Windows Azure Service Management Portal. What was once considered to be a competiton to Windows Azure has become an on-premise implementation of Windows Azure by embracing the new features of Windows Server.

VMware has been providing similar capabilities through their vCloud offering. With Microsoft entering the business of white labeled Cloud powered by Windows Azure, the battlefield has shifted from the Private Cloud to the Public Cloud.

- Janakiram MSV, Chief Editor,