Microsoft (previous CloudAve coverage) and Apprenda (previous CloudAve coverage) yesterday made some announcements focussing on service providers at #wpc12 and it generated lots of buzz in the tech community. Even though there were lot of talk about the VMware angle in the story and about Microsoft planning to push Azure as the cloud OS of choice, I feel that none of the news articles touched on the big picture giving a long term outlook on this Microsoft move. This prompted me to come up with a “me too but different” post on this topic.
First, the news
Microsoft: Microsoft yesterday announced that they will add Azure-like services including Virtual Machine hosting and website hosting to Windows Server. They also announced the availability of Service Management Portal and API (previously codenamed as Project Katal). The ability to create high density scalable web hosting and run Windows and Linux VMs by tapping into Systems Center gives service providers an opportunity to participate in the cloud marketplace. The service management portal will allow them to offer self service provisioning of websites and VMs and the REST API will allow integration with billing components and other custom integrations.
Apprenda: Apprenda, which has been working with Microsoft for sometime now, also took advantage of service management API to allow service providers to offer private .NET PaaS targeting enterprise customers. This is a pretty interesting move which I will explain below.
Now, the views
Microsoft: This is a significant announcement from Microsoft. 4+ months back, Microsoft briefed me on Azure and as a part of this briefing they gave me some insights on their roadmap which included this announcement. This announcement fits into some of the themes I have been advocating and some of the criticisms I had about Microsoft in the past. First let me talk about my past criticism. I was critical of Microsoft’s lack of proper private cloud strategy for a long time. Even though I believe in a future dominated by public clouds, any reasonable cloud player should have a private cloud strategy in place to meet the short term needs. Microsoft fixed that with the System Center 12 announcement some time back. This announcement is a step forward in the same private cloud strategy because not all private clouds are hosted inside an organization’s firewall. If taking on VMware was the key takeaway, it should be the takeaway during the previous announcement itself. This announcement sheds light beyond the strategy of taking on VMware and talks about where Microsoft is headed in the future.
For a long time, I have been advocating the idea of Federated Clouds while Microsoft was bullish on their Azure strategy. I am also advocating for the past two years that PaaS is where the action is going to be in the future. In my world view, the spotlight will be on the developer interface and above while the infrastructure needs are pushed to the background. The background, however, consists of a federated pool of infrastructure providers sourced by the workloads automatically based on their needs (performance, security, geographical, etc..). In short, most of the visible IT action is going to be at the Platform level and in the management of applications. When I see the Microsoft announcement from this vantage point, I see this move as a realization by Microsoft that all the infrastructure needs are going to be provided by a federated cloud ecosystem and they want to be the gatekeeper of various services (well, one of the gatekeepers in a market where there are other players including VMware). Now, an organization can use System Center to not only provision compute power on their own private cloud but also on Azure and other smaller service providers. This falls well into the federated cloud theme I have been advocating. Now let me explain how this also falls into the other theme I keep harping on.
For a long time I tell anyone who lend their ears to me about how Microsoft should change the name of the System Center to give a feeling of services world. In fact, when Microsoft invited me to MMS conference two years back, I used all the briefing time they provided with their top executives to vent on how they are delivering a wrong message around System Center. I guess it could be the reason they stopped inviting me after that :-). With Service Management Portal, they are not only changing the tune but also telling the world that all they care is about managing services. Today, it could be infrastructure services. Tomorrow, it could be services above the stack including the ones we call as applications today. Clearly, they want to be the gatekeeper for all the services any organization consumes tomorrow irrespective of the underlying infrastructure. If I were strategizing for Microsoft, I will go beyond Windows Server to support all the cloud stacks including the open source ones like OpenStack, CloudStack, Eucalyptus etc. on the infrastructure side and CloudFoundry, OpenShift, etc. on the platforms side. Let us see where they go in the coming years and if Microsoft plays their cards right, they will be a dominant player in the services based world.
Apprenda: This is a pretty interesting move from Apprenda too. After they started supporting Azure along with the private clouds, Apprenda is making a move towards service providers who are in the Federated Cloud ecosystem. It not only allows Apprenda to expand their reach, it also gives service providers a .NET PaaS option that is not Microsoft or IronFoundry. Believe me, services providers are desperate for a PaaS strategy and it is not just Apprenda who saw this market need, Cumulogic (previous CloudAve coverage) is also reaching out to service providers. Don’t be surprised if you see a Federated Ecosystem of PaaS providers in the future. A move to service providers is vital not just for expanding the Apprenda reach but also for meeting the needs of enterprises who wants to “burst out” to hosted providers.
Disclosure: Apprenda and Cumulogic were sponsors to DeployCon 2012, enterprise PaaS Summit.
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- Take that, vCloud: Microsoft opens Windows Azure to web hosts (gigaom.com)
- Microsoft Offers Hosts Another Cloud to Chose From – White Labels Azure (cloudave.com)
- AppFog, Apprenda And Azure: The Future Of PaaS Is Getting Defined (cloudave.com)