Some call it better late than never. But theres also the last but
surely not the least. Its not that easy to figure out which applies best for
traditional software czars like Microsoft, when you see them sharpening their
edge like never before, as they enter the foggy stratosphere of clouds and
challenge early birds like VMware and others.
Just how precise the edge is, stays to be seen, but MS is definitely
brandishing the sword with aplomb. And that makes one wonder whether Azure would
still stay the color of so many blues that cloud players are grappling with.
Or would it be the fresh stark blue confidence that one sees in the eyes of
Amitabh Srivastava, senior VP, Windows Azure, Microsoft?
Market strategy against competition, beta stage outages, virtualization
standards, open cloud manifesto and enterprise readiness of Azure; on his recent
visit to India, Srivastava talks about all these issues enveloping its cloud
strategy, and more. Excerpts
What exactly is the status of MS strategy on cloud market with Azure,
specially in view of rival pioneers who are ahead in terms of market entry?
Well, as to being early or late, MS has been doing cloud for over a decade
now. MSN and internal data centers spread on this stuff, are a historical point
there. It is just that it wasnt called cloud back then. Then, Amazon, Google,
etc, showed good work on clouds larger potential.
Windows Azure is a cloud services operating system that serves as the
development, service hosting and service management environment for the Azure
services platform. Azure provides developers with on-demand computing and
storage facilities to host, scale, and manage web applications on the Internet
through Microsoft data centers.
It is currently in Community Technology Preview and commercial availability
is likely at the end of calendar year 2009.
But does the current limelight for cloud suggest it is the right time to
accentuate portfolio and strategy around it?
Right now, hype has overtaken reality. Cloud is a massive geographically
distributed computing mechanism made available as a utility service. We are
among the first ones to build an operating system for it, with Azure. It allows
for better efficiency on hardware, drives costs down and takes the complexity
away (unlike our competition).
A good operating system is crucial to realizing the real worth of clouds and
managing it better. Automating various elements, instead of letting it go the
manual way, brings opex and capex down and reduces complexity. Thats what we
are trying to offer.
Lot of people think of cloud as a replacement of IT. But its an extension at
times. There are certain things ready to go for cloud. But due to data security,
compliance, and control issues, customers have to take a mixed route also, with
some stuff put on cloud while the rest remains on premises. Now thats where
there should be seamless flow in between the two, and you need a good technology
to orchestrate that well
On the programming side also, MS believes and works on how to make it easier
for developers. Its important that we provide capabilities that allow a
developer to generate any number of applications, as per his choice and take the
complexity bit out.
There was some twenty-two hour outage with your Washington data center
beta, apparently due to some load balancing problem. How did you assess that?
The business application for managing the entire data center was an issue.
Fabric controller works on a logic. The fabric controller technology in Windows
Azure enables to scale applications seamlessly, as demand rises and falls.
Built-in management services give monitoring and tracing capabilities.
If a machine goes down, it brings another machine automatically to ensure
uninterrupted and absolutely smooth work. Now here, in this incident, there was
no breakdown or machine downtime issue, but just some networking issue.
Still, the application made sure and brought in another machine. Now that
compounded the problem. It was not a problem due to some loophole, but because
of the system being extra alert and proactive. It definitely gave us another
area to address.
Talking about the developments on open cloud manifesto, what is MS
We are very interested in an open dialog and figuring out clearly on how
cloud works. But its important that all stakeholders, whether users or
developers, are involved. It should be a publicly open forum. We are all for it.
But it is very important to understand what the customers want. One cannot just
standardize without it and then push it across.
All our formats are XML Open, and we have built upon a platform that is wired
well for interoperability, be it Red Hat, Google, etc.
Windows Azure is an open platform that will support both Microsoft and
non-Microsoft languages and environments. It supports popular standards and
protocols including SOAP, REST, XML, and PHP.
Enterprise readiness of cloud products is a critical issue today. Whats
your progress on this?
A customer wants costs to come down, and wants agility without hassles on
security, compliance, etc, when he opts for a cloud. Then there are service
level agreements (SLAs) ranging from normal to severe, depending on various
business requirements. We will definitely learn as we go.
We have a large enterprise business. And the readiness would be evolutionary.
Some workloads would move onto clouds, some will stay. Issues and practical
areas of concern will start emerging. It would be a stage wise approach.
As of now, with Azure, customers can add web service capabilities to existing
packaged applications. They can build, modify, and distribute applications to
the web with minimal on-premises resources.
In addition, they can perform services (large volume storage, batch
processing, intense or large-volume computations, etc) off-premises. In short,
they can reduce costs of building and extending on-premise resources and reduce
the effort and costs of IT management.