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Incomplete Thought: Looking At An “Open & Interoperable Cloud” Through Azure-Colored Glasses

As with the others in my series of “incomplete thoughts,” this one is focused on an issue that has been banging around in my skull for a few days.  I’m not sure how to properly articulate my thought completely, so I throw this up for consideration, looking for your discussion to clarify my thinking.

You may have heard of the little dust-up involving Microsoft and the folk(s) behind the Open Cloud Manifesto. The drama here reminds me of the Dallas episode where everyone tried to guess who shot J.R., and it’s really not the focus of this post.  I use it here for color.

What is the focus of this post is the notion of “open(ness),” portability and interoperability as it relates to Cloud Computing — or more specifically how these terms relate to the infrastructure and enabling platforms of Cloud Computing solution providers.

I put “openness” in quotes because definitionally, there are as many representations of this term as there are for “Cloud,” which is a big part of the problem.  Just to be fair, before you start thinking I’m unduly picking on Microsoft, I’m not. I challenged VMware on the same issues.

So here’s my question as it relates to Microsoft’s strategy regarding Azure given an excerpt from Microsoft’s Steven Martin as he described his employer’s stance on Cloud in regard to the Cloudifesto debacle above in his blog post titled “Moving Toward an Open Process On Cloud Computing Interoperability“:

From the moment we kicked off our cloud computing effort, openness and interop stood at the forefront. As those who are using it will tell you, the  Azure Services Platform is an open and flexible platform that is defined by web addressability, SOAP, XML, and REST.  Our vision in taking this approach was to ensure that the programming model was extensible and that the individual services could be used in conjunction with applications and infrastructure that ran on both Microsoft and non-Microsoft stacks. 

What got me going was this ZDNet interview by Mary Jo Foley wherein she interviewed Julius Sinkevicius, Microsoft’s Director of Product Management for Windows Server, in which she loosely references/compares Cisco’s Cloud strategy is to Microsoft’s and apparently a lack of interoperability between Microsoft’s own virtualization and Cloud Computing platforms:

MJF: Did Cisco ask Microsoft about licensing Azure? Will Microsoft license all of the components of Azure to any other company?

Sinkevicius: No, Microsoft is not offering Windows Azure for on premise deployment. Windows Azure runs only in Microsoft datacenters. Enterprise customers who wish to deploy a highly scalable and flexible OS in their datacenter should leverage Hyper-V and license Windows Server Datacenter Edition, which has unlimited virtualization rights, and System Center for management.

MJF: What does Microsoft see as the difference between Red Dog (Windows Azure) and the OS stack that Cisco announced?

Sinkevicius: Windows Azure is Microsoft’s runtime designed specifically for the Microsoft datacenter. Windows Azure is designed for new applications and allows ISVs and Enterprises to get geo-scale without geo-cost.  The OS stack that Cisco announced is for customers who wish to deploy on-premise servers, and thus leverages Windows Server Datacenter and System Center.

The source of the on-premise Azure hosting confusion appears to be this: All apps developed for Azure will be able to run on Windows Server, according to the Softies. However — at present — the inverse is not true: Existing Windows Server apps ultimately may be able to run on Azure. For now only some can do so, and only with a fairly substantial amount of tweaking.

Microsoft’s cloud pitch to enterprises who are skittish about putting their data in the Microsoft basket isn’t “We’ll let you host your own data using our cloud platform.” Instead, it’s more like: “You can take some/all of your data out of our datacenters and run it on-premise if/when you want — and you can do the reverse and put some/all of your data in our cloud if you so desire.”

What confuses me is how Azure, as a platform, will be limited to deployment only in Microsoft’s operating environment (i.e. their datacenters) and not for use outside of that environment and how that compares to the statements above regarding the interoperability described by Martin.

Doesn’t the proprietary nature of the Azure runtime platform, “open” or not via API, by definition limit its openness and interoperability? If I can’t take my applications and information and operate it anywhere without major retooling, how does that imply openness, portability and interoperability?  

If one cannot do that fully between Windows Server and Azure — both from the same company —  what chance do we have between instances running across different platforms not from Microsoft?

The issue at hand to consider is this:

If you do not have one-to-one parity between the infrastructure that provides your cloud “externally” versus “internally,” (and similarly public versus private clouds) can you truly claim openness, portability and interoperability?

What do you think?

  1. zonky
    March 29th, 2009 at 13:10 | #1

    It's a cash grab. Not only will you need to use their production Azure enviroments, you'll also need another instance for dev, one for testings/staging etc, etc etc.

  2. March 29th, 2009 at 16:13 | #2

    Resisting the urge to question whether Windows Azure is actually Windows and not *nix, the need to port server apps makes sense. They're exposing .Net APIs (not native win32/64) just as GAE exposes python APIs (not the Linux subsystem). An Azure application will run on any Microsoft datacenter (of their choice), and on the dev fabric which, if GAE is any indication, will perform like a pig (it serialises protocol buffers for each call to the data store).

  3. March 29th, 2009 at 16:16 | #3

    In answer to your specific question though, no. An "open" PaaS would need to be able to be implemented by multiple providers (including yourself) and would probably come in the form of FOSS. An "Azure Edition" of Windows Server would probably qualify too.

  4. October 4th, 2011 at 02:28 | #4

    excellente a padento si oncluz doses con ladvimo. remequeir titeg se mimernam son secentos mi rionos rengus y edetra cangiro catilamo.

  1. March 30th, 2009 at 00:04 | #1
  2. April 29th, 2009 at 08:32 | #2