Updated: 12:30 PM 10.27.08
At the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2008 (PDC), Microsoft unveiled their entrance into Cloud Computing with the launch of the Azure Services Platform. Billed as "an internet-scale cloud services platform hosted in Microsoft data centers," Azure is designed to provide an "operating system" and a set of developer services that will enable a broadening of the Microsoft platform from on-premise to the Cloud.
Azure is designed to allow Microsoft developers "to quickly and easily create applications running in the cloud using their existing skills with Microsoft Visual Studio development environments and the .NET Framework." More information on the Azure Services Platform can be seen here.
Obviously with the information just being released hours ago, there is plenty of speculation around the features and functionality of this new Cloud. So I thought that I would quickly put down my thoughts as to how this plays in the current Cloud offerings as they exist. First, let’s take a look at the Cloud Pyramid:
Some quick notes:
- From the naming (Cloud Service Platform), Azure is clearly positioned as a "Platform" play here.
- This is the Ray Ozzie’s "Red Dog" project…probably why some of the presenters were wearing red shoes (?)
- Cloud Platforms, traditionally, offer development environments, using technologies that are somewhat restrictive or proprietary
- Azure introduces certain Services (e.g., .NET and SQL Services) as a means to Extend the functionality of the platform (e.g., Cloud Extender)
- Most similar to the Azure Cloud would be Google’s App Engine (where Python and possibly soon other languages are required for usage)
- With Azure, you do not get access to the root Operating System, as you would with an Infrastructure offering, which means you will be restricted to only what Microsoft enables within the Platform
- Azure pricing is not immediately available, however:
- Compute time measured in machine hours
- Bandwidth charges to and from the Microsoft datacenters
- Storage charges measured in GB’s
- Transactional charges for GETs and PUTs – this, to me, seems to be something new to Cloud Computing and will be interesting to see how it is adopted
- According to Microsoft, there will be some limits to the first release of Azure Services which will be available without charge during the Community Technology Preview (CTP). Once launched commercially, the billing and services will cover:
- Windows Azure – Compute and Storage services
- .NET Services – Access Control, Service Bus, and/or Workflow Services
- SQL Services- Database service for LOB applications
- SharePoint Services (future) – SharePoint components that developers can utilize and build into their application
- Interesting use of Federated Identities that spans from on-premise to "in the cloud". This means SSO (Single Sign On) and ACLs (Access Control Lists) that move from on-premise .NET environments to the Azure Cloud
- Each Azure "instance" runs in a private dedicate Virtual Machine (VM) that has 2GB RAM and dedicated CPU (Core?) and a hard drive (size unconfirmed yet)
- Azure uses popular standards and protocols including: SOAP, XML and REST (e.g., API) however no GUI tool available yet.
- Microsoft to provide hosted Windows servers with full Admin access (not with Technical Preview). Supposedly you can choose how much RAM/CPU you want. To be released in 2009. *NEW*
I found this to be an interesting move by Microsoft. They clearly come in at the Cloud Platform level (almost in between the Platform and Infrastructure layers). Their inclusion of various "proprietary" extenders using .NET and other online Enterprise applications will, I believe, resonate well with the Enterprise. This is a pretty safe move made by Microsoft as they leverage various technology layers and extend services back and forth from the Cloud.
How does all of this work with GoGrid? Pretty well actually, since GoGrid has been providing numerous Windows Server 2003 and now 2008 clouds for some time. Given that we are a Cloud Infrastructure provider, GoGrid can be used in conjunction with Azure and some of the other Services coming from the announcements today. As I dive a bit deeper into the information from the next few days, I will either update this post or write some new articles. Stay tuned.
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