When Microsoft announced Windows Azure appliance few days back at PDC10, I was critical of their plans to sell the technology bundled with hardware from their partners.
What I expected from Microsoft was the availability of Azure stack to be used with the existing infrastructure, something like what one can do with Eucalyptus, for example. Expecting the enterprises to buy physical compute infrastructure along with the platform stack is a big downer for me. I guess they are taking the approach to protect their existing cash cow (the sales of Windows Server OSes and other tools). Forcing the potential customers to buy hardware appliance defeats the very idea of drastically cutting down the capital costs with the move to cloud. Even though private clouds are capital intensive compared to public clouds, I feel that letting the enterprises use their existing infrastructure while embracing cloud like features is a more sensible approach than forcing them to buy new hardware along with the platform stack. Their decision to not offer the stack to install on the existing compute infrastructure is the biggest disappointment from this announcement.
Immediately after I posted this one, James Urquhart, the author of the famous Wisdom Of The Clouds blog told me that the reason why they are not offering it could be linked to a possibility that Azure is a combination of software and data center architecture. My initial position on my post was based on the fact that Microsoft has not explicitly talked about the issue. However, James’ comment made me think about that possibility. Now, it has officially come out of Microsoft.
According to a blog post by Steve Martin, a senior manager at Microsoft, Azure cannot run on any datacenter. He clearly highlights how the implementation of Windows Azure needs some of their global data-center hardware design and large scale multi-tenancy. Since these cannot be done on many of the existing datacenters, an offering similar to Eucalyptus doesn’t make any sense.
We don’t envision something on our price list called “Windows Azure” that is sold for on-premises deployment. Some implementation details aren’t going to be practical for customers, such as our global data-center hardware design and large scale multi-tenancy features which are integral to Windows Azure and the Azure Services Platform.
Also, he clearly highlights how they are going to address this market in the same post
We will continue to evolve Windows Server and System Center focusing significantly on technologies like virtualization, app and web server capabilities, single-pane management tools for managing on-premise and cloud in the same way, etc. which extend the enterprise data center in significant ways. We’ll continue to license Windows Server and System Center (and therefore the shared innovation derived from Windows Azure) to hosters through our SPLA program.
If you are interested in understanding Microsoft’s strategy on the private cloud side, I urge you to read his post.
Update: The above post by Steve Martin was more than a year old. I overlooked the date stamp and assumed it was a clarification after the announcement of Azure appliance. It was an oversight on my part. However, the post does offer an official clarification for my comments after the announcement of Azure appliance. My apologies for making it appear as if the blog post is a recent one.