The Troposphere

Aug 12 2009   2:06PM GMT

Azure to blaze the way for hybrid cloud

CarlBrooks Carl Brooks Profile: CarlBrooks

Infosys believes Microsoft is staking out the cloud as the inevitable future of IT — and designing Azure to be a seamless bridge between hither and thither in order to make the transition in small steps for enterprise consumers.

According to Jitendra Pal Thethi, principal architect for Microsoft business intelligence at the Indian IT giant, Microsoft’s aim with Azure to hopscotch right over the Infrastructure-as-a-Service part of the cloud and sell what it already has – software — in the approved cloud fashion, on-demand, scalable and transparent at the hardware level. Why should the baker sell wheat, after all?

Thethi has been involved with Azure since development began, some three years ago. He said that Azure is designed to let developers to carve off sections of their projects and put them in Microsoft’s cloud without having to re-learn or revamp anything. Databases already developed in Microsoft SQL can go right into Azure’s SQL Data Service without a hitch, storage, processing and all, for example.

“This concept [is that] not everything will be in the cloud; not everything will be on-premise—it will be a hybrid world,” he said. Thethi said businesses already using Microsoft for development “can pick off the low hanging fruit” without having to leave their comfy Microsoft environment or design an interface to a non-Microsoft cloud.

“Azure today gives you an on-premise experience….It’s something none of the other cloud providers provide,” he said. Thethi said that cloud computing will fundamentally change development and design, but it’s years away and Microsoft is well aware of that.

“The fact of the matter is that they want to get the ball rolling,” he said, and get developers comfortable with using online services in small ways before thinking bigger. “The entire architecture and development [model] is going to change,” he said, but Microsoft is betting businesses will want to move into the cloud in safe, familiar steps.

Microsoft plans to make Azure as compatible and useful as it can, reasoning that the less developers have to do, the easier it will be for them to make the switch. Some people already call Azure “on-demand Server 2008.”

Furthermore, it should be noted that Microsoft has no real advantages in delivering computing power itself; it neither makes computers nor helps people run them. Hosting companies and data centers do that, and they are already cutting a broad swath in the public cloud market.

So Redmond, by virtue of ubiquity, has the opportunity to carve out the Platform-as-a-Service territory very neatly. It already makes the software that (mostly) everyone is using, it has plenty of spare cash and plenty of big iron on the ranch for users, and it can scoop up subscribers and users just be being that little bit easier to use, and just a few cents cheaper than the competition, and by letting enterprises come in at their own pace.

After all, Microsoft is nothing if not patient. With cloud computing, it has everything to gain here, very little to lose and an audience it doesn’t have to chase. All it has to do is make Azure run, and wait.

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