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Microsoft Azure Going “Down Stack,” Adding IaaS Capabilities. AWS/VMware WAR!

It’s very interesting to see that now that infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) players like Amazon Web Services are clawing their way “up the stack” and adding more platform-as-a-service (PaaS) capabilities, that Microsoft is going “down stack” and providing IaaS capabilities by way of adding RDP and VM capabilities to Azure.

From Carl Brooks’ (@eekygeeky) article today:

Microsoft is expected to add support for Remote Desktops and virtual machines (VMs) to Windows Azure by the end of March, and the company also says that prices for Azure, now a baseline $0.12 per hour, will be subject to change every so often.

Prashant Ketkar, marketing director for Azure, said that the service would be adding Remote Desktop capabilities as soon as possible, as well as the ability to load and run virtual machine images directly on the platform. Ketkar did not give a date for the new features, but said they were the two most requested items.

This move begins a definite trend away from the original concept for Azure in design and execution. It was originally thought of as a programming platform only: developers would write code directly into Azure, creating applications without even being aware of the underlying operating system or virtual instances. It will now become much closer in spirit to Amazon Web Services, where users control their machines directly. Microsoft still expects Azure customers to code for the platform and not always want hands on control, but it is bowing to pressure to cede control to users at deeper and deeper levels.

One major reason for the shift is that there are vast arrays of legacy Windows applications users expect to be able to run on a Windows platform, and Microsoft doesn’t want to lose potential customers because they can’t run applications they’ve already invested in on Azure. While some users will want to start fresh, most see cloud as a way to extend what they have, not discard it.

This sets the path to allow those enterprise customers running HyperV internally to take those VMs and run them on (or in conjunction with) Azure.

Besides the obvious competition with AWS in the public cloud space, there’s also a private cloud element. As it stands now, one of the primary differentiators for VMware from the private-to-public cloud migration/portability/interoperability perspective is the concept that if you run vSphere in your enterprise, you can take the same VMs without modification and move them to a service provider who runs vCloud (based on vSphere.)

This is a very interesting and smart move by Microsoft.


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  1. February 12th, 2010 at 09:02 | #1

    Yeah, we’ve been playing with Azure but the whole “you can’t install anything” was a deal-killer. It’s funny, their approach was more suited to a Linux/open source stack where you don’t have installers and registries and all that historical cruft to deal with. We were like, “but we’re talking to you about this because you’re the Windows guys and we develop Windows software… What do you mean I should go run it on a Windows AMI?” But since PDC they’ve been saying “yeah, we’ll do IaaS too, hold on…”

  2. February 16th, 2010 at 16:05 | #2

    PaaSasaurus Rex really is just one of cloud's creatures after all. ;-} As you are well aware, your private->public migration scenario is a big deal for enterprises. As I commented on your PaaSasaurus blog that wondered aloud if IaaS would live a meaningful existence, each of the SPI delivery models has a place.

    My take on the up stack/down stack race is that the vendors do not know with certainty that where they started is the sweet spot. Customers will ultimately decide that. Additionally, the most desired delivery model is likely to shift over time. I think these factors compel vendors to move up/down so they can stay in the race.

  3. September 28th, 2011 at 05:30 | #4

    You’ve noted very interesting points ! ps decent website .

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