Ozzie's Azure cloud precipitates PDC promise

In Tuesday's IT Blogwatch, Richi Jennings watches bloggers decode Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform. Not to mention The Equalizer, as you've never seen him before...

Elizabeth Montalbano warms her bones in LA:

Ray Ozzie (source: Microsoft)
Ray Ozzie, Microsoft Corp.'s chief software architect ... detailed Windows Azure, a cloud computing version of its operating system that the software vendor says will enable developers to build and host online services on a Windows-based IT infrastructure.

Windows Azure is the foundation of a new Azure Services Platform that is designed to compete with Amazon.com Inc.'s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service as a scalable application-hosting environment, Ozzie said during a keynote speech at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference, which kicked off today in Los Angeles. Microsoft is releasing a Community Technology Preview version of the Azure Services Platform to PDC attendees and eventually will make the technology available worldwide through its data centers.
Ozzie verbally tipped his hat to Amazon for bringing its cloud offering to market before Microsoft and other vendors. "All of us are going to be standing on their shoulders," he said, as the IT industry increasingly transitions ... to running applications over the Internet via cloud computing environments ... [but] that Microsoft had "somewhat broader and different objectives" than Amazon.

John Brandon has more deets:

So it's a cloud OS, but what does that mean? ... apps scale according to your customer needs, and you can tap into Microsoft data centers instead of expanding your own.

There are five main components: Live Services (data and user resources), SQL Services (for a distributed and relational Web database), .NET for security and communication between apps, plus SharePoint and CRM services (for tracking customers -- a module that will not be available right away with the tech preview download) ... It integrates with current developer workflows. You can use Visual Studio 2008 to write apps, deploy them, test them, and maintain them.
The one missing ingredient to all of this is the pricing. There are scant details about how much it will cost to scale apps. Without that info, it's impossible to know how Microsoft has positioned Azure -- is it primarily an enterprise product, for Web 2.0 start-ups, or for two guys in a garage?.

Randall C. Kennedy thinks it "looks promising":

From where I'm sitting (about five rows back from the stage where a brooding Ray Ozzie is holding court), it looks to me like Microsoft has a winning strategy. That's because it's playing smart and leveraging their tried-and-true, "embrace and extend" philosophy to make cloud computing accessible to the Windows developer masses.
Microsoft is making it ridiculously easy to jump into cloud-based development. In fact, anyone even remotely familiar with ASP.Net programming will be able to quickly prototype and deploy a working Windows Azure application ... It's also a smart way to win over hearts and minds. By putting a complex, distributed runtime environment within reach of even casual developers, Microsoft virtually guarantees a deluge of activity.

Steve Gillmor watches from the sidelines:

The leisure with which Ozzie and his lieutenants roll out the announcements belies the speed with which Microsoft is executing this corner turn.
Ozzie telegraphed one potential outcome when he thanked Amazon for pioneering the space with its cloud offerings. It certainly was sincere, but there was no mistaking the virtual gold watch, the famous proffered hearty handclasp, and the well-oiled “We’ll take it from here.”.

But Simon Brocklehurst seeks the elephant in the room:

In recent days, we’ve seen new cloud computing announcements from both Amazon ... and Rackspace ... Google is in the market already ... Next year, Sun Microsystems will announce its cloud computing plans codenamed “Project Hydrazine.”
Sizeable Internet companies such as Digg and Facebook; and even small, ambitious start-ups such as FriendFeeed and Mahalo haven’t been rushing to move/build their entire infrastructures to/using cloud vendors ... the cloud vendors simply can’t meet their needs ... even if they could [it] would be much more expensive than running their own hardware.
Is the truth that there actually aren’t any significant general economies of scale in building really large virtualized compute offerings? ... Are we witnessing a huge amount of hype around what will actually turn out, in the end, to be less than a zero sum game?

Seth doesn't know what to say:

Is it me, or is ’Azure’ the worst name you possibly could think of for a Cloud Computing initiative?  The word Azure reminds people of a cloudless sky, a clear day. A world without clouds.

And Tom thumbs down:

Now that I've seen Microsoft's plan...I think I have to give the nod to Amazon's Cloud based solution. There's a lot to like about Microsoft Azure but I just don't think that's what people want anymore. They don't want to buy into some "grand vision" or to write their programs for a proprietary, locked in system.
What Amazon does is simply to give you a server in the cloud. It acts and works just like a server you'd have on your desktop and should you ever choose to move your application back to your own server you could do so almost effortlessly. That, to me, seems like the way to go and I don't think the value of such a setup can be overestimated.
A lot of things can go wrong and you simply don't want to tie yourself to one vendor. Because what happens when that vendor gets overwhelmed and you start to see performance problems, or they institute terms you can't live with, or any of a thousand other scenarios. I'm in favor of cloud computing but let's remember what it is: Your application running on someone else's computers.

And finally...

Buffer overflow:

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 23 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Previously in IT Blogwatch:

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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