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Azure Appliance, a Turn-key Private Cloud?

Microsoft Together with their Hardware Partner Offers the Azure Containers

private-cloudMaybe not just yet unless you are an extremely large hosting company or enterprise with big IT and research and development (R&D) budgets.

To re-cap, this week at its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) Microsoft announced that together with their hardware partners they will start offering (some time later this year as a limited release for folks like Dell, HP, Fujitsu and eBay) Azure containers basically giving others the ability to run pretty much what Microsoft is running in their own public Windows Azure cloud datacenters.

This is an important move from Microsoft which they kind of hinted in the past and something we expected them to do back in 2009. Microsoft is not the only hosting company in the world, and there are governments and enterprises who – for security and other reasons – are continuing to invest in their own datacenters – these are big markets which Microsoft wants to address and not let go to VMware and other competitors.

However, the biggest drawback which all observers seem to be missing is that while Azure technology stack is similar to regular Microsoft Windows/IIS/SQL/.NET stack, it is not completely identical. You just cannot take an existing Windows Server application and point it to Azure. Even Microsoft’s own flagship server applications such as Exchange, SharePoint and Dynamics CRM and ERP systems do not run on Azure. Applications actually have to be ported to Azure which is certainly doable but does require R&D efforts on the side of application creators.

Today the set of applications available for Azure is so limited that I can probably count them with my fingers: Microsoft ported their SQL database, SugarCRM just released an Azure version of their tool, Quest Software has a set of cloud-based management services for administrators, and FullArmor has a beta of their endpoint management tool.

Maybe there is one or two other application that I missed – but you get the story. As of today, even if you get an Azure container (and you actually have to buy one – you will not be able to re-purpose the servers you already have) – there is not much you will be able to run on it.

For eBay this maybe worth it – they have their own custom-developed application and big budgets for developing and improving it. For most other folks out there – applications need to come first and make private Azure valuable enough. I am not saying that this will not happen – folks in Redmond are doing their best to recruit their partners to form the Microsoft cloud ecosystem – but we are definitely not there yet.

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More Stories By Dmitry Sotnikov

Dmitry Sotnikov is VP of Cloud at WSO2, building the cloud business for this leading middleware provider. Check out the WSO2 Cloud platform at http://CloudPreview.WSO2.com

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