Microsoft’s long awaited cloud platform has finally been unveiled here at PDC 2008. Late to the Internet, Microsoft hit it hard. Late to the cloud, Microsoft is doing the same with Windows Azure. Happily, this will put an end to all the guessing about what Zurich, Red Dog, biztalk.net, SSDS, Live Mesh, etc., actually are.
Of course, now begins the discussion of how all these pieces fit together.
This is not a simple approach like Amazon’s EC2 or Google App Engine. Not to trivialize either, but they are certainly easier to understand. Try explaining them to the proverbial grandmother — no problem, especially if you leave out virtualization and pythons ;) (preemptive comment: I know AWS is much more than EC2 and that bigger and better things are coming from Google).
Regardless, the Microsoft Azure is multi-faceted. In typical Microsoft fashion, there is a lot for a developer to choose from:
- Azure Storage, Management, and Compute. Run WCF/ASP.NET based services, with work queues and data storage.
- Microsoft .NET Services, nee biztalk.net (wrote about here). This gives you an Internet Service Bus, Access Control, and Workflow Services. Messages and workflow in the cloud connecting other cloud and enterprise offerings. Very big deal.
- Microsoft SQL Services, nee SQL Server Data Services or SSDS. Eventually a relational model in the sky, currently not too different from Azure Storage.
- Live Services: Not too much detail on this today, but this is clearly what was “Live Mesh”: a rich synchronization framework, “live operating environment” for writing applications to across the Web and on user’s devices.
- Windows Live (Live Office, Live Sharepoint, Live Dynamics CRM, etc). In-cloud applications extensible by partners and users with in-cloud and in-premises solutions.
It all does fit together, and will be of immediate value to developers. As Marc Jacobs of Lab49 said to me afterward,
We could make use of all of these services today.
Damned straight. It is the openness of this platform, the ability of developers to mix and match the different components, and to do it between the cloud and in-premises solutions that makes this such a winner.
This last point is an important one. Microsoft is in a unique position to help enterprise IT bridge to the cloud. While I don’t think Amazon and Google will cede that market to Microsoft, their current offerings aren’t a natural fit.
Taking this all together — not forgetting Microsoft’s leading developer productivity story — it looks like a home run to me.