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Back in 2008, Microsoft’s vision for public cloud revolved around platform services targeted at developers

Azure Resource Manager: The Secret Sauce of the Microsoft Cloud Strategy

Since its introduction in 2009, Microsoft Azure has gone through a significant transformation. What started as a hardcore set of platform services is now a force to be reckoned within the infrastructure market as well.

According to Gartner, Azure is inching closer to AWS, firmly securing its place in the top right section of the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) Magic Quadrant, which is reserved only for the market leaders.

One technology that’s accelerating Microsoft’s infrastructure services is Azure Resource Manager, which has become the cornerstone of Microsoft cloud platform. And it’s gearing up to play a key role in Azure Stack, the private cloud offering from Redmond.

In this multi-part article series, of which this piece is the first installment, we will take a closer look at Azure Resource Manager and its capabilities

The Evolution of IaaS
Back in 2008, Microsoft’s vision for public cloud revolved around platform services targeted at developers. It designed Azure to be the best platform to deploy and run .NET applications. Like its early counterparts — Google App Engine, and Heroku — Azure emphasized on building stateless applications that could scale automatically.

Developers had to package the code in one of the two deployment units: Web Role and Worker Role. The Web Role hosted the public-facing web frontends and APIs while the business logic went into the Worker Role. Persistent data was spread between Azure Storage and SQL Azure, the NoSQL and RDBMS offerings from Microsoft. The Service Bus exposed additional application services including messaging and queuing. The combination of Web Role and Worker Role was called as Cloud Services, which collectively delivered the compute capabilities of the platform.

Watching, no doubt, the stupendous growth of Amazon EC2, Microsoft realized the importance of pure-play infrastructure services. But the design and architecture of Azure made it extremely difficult to expose raw VMs to the outside world. Interestingly, both Web Role and Worker Role were just stateless virtual machines running on top of Hyper-V. Microsoft brought another flavor of cloud services called the VMRole, which enabled customers to open a remote desktop session to install custom software. These were the early signs of Azure IaaS.

VMRole was not even a remote match to Amazon EC2 instances. It essentially followed the same stateless philosophy of Cloud Services. Eventually, customers could mount object storage containers as persistent disks of VMRole. That partially solved the problem of running traditional workloads such as databases and line-of-business applications.

In 2012, Microsoft tweaked VMRole further to launch Azure VMs, which marked its official entry into the IaaS market. It partnered with Canonical and Oracle to support various Linux flavors along with Windows Server.

The early IaaS offerings were plagued with multiple issues. The I/O performance of persistent disks didn’t match the expectations. Microsoft suffered from multiple issues related to disk I/O and throughput, which questioned the viability of the platform for running mission-critical workloads.

Since Azure VMs were deeply rooted in the Cloud Services Foundation, Microsoft could do very little in augmenting the IaaS platform and improving the performance. The other area that was seriously impacted was networking. It was tough to implement transparent load balancing, auto scale, floating IP addresses, and VPN connectivity. None of these features were factored in the original avatar of Azure. Implementing standard DevOps processes on Microsoft’s public cloud was extremely hard.

During the same timeframe, Google decided to build IaaS from the ground up instead of extending App Engine. Google Compute Engine was launched almost the same time. On the other hand, Amazon continued to make progress with EC2 putting Microsoft under tremendous pressure.  These factors forced Microsoft to go back to the whiteboard to redesign Azure IaaS.

Read the entire article at The New Stack.

Janakiram MSV is an analyst, advisor, and architect. Follow him on Twitter,  Facebook and LinkedIn.

More Stories By Janakiram MSV

Janakiram MSV heads the Cloud Infrastructure Services at Aditi Technologies. He was the founder and CTO of Get Cloud Ready Consulting, a niche Cloud Migration and Cloud Operations firm that recently got acquired by Aditi Technologies. In his current role, he leads a highly talented engineering team that focuses on migrating and managing applications deployed on Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Windows Azure Infrastructure Services.
Janakiram is an industry analyst with deep understanding of Cloud services. Through his speaking, writing and analysis, he helps businesses take advantage of the emerging technologies. He leverages his experience of engaging with the industry in developing informative and practical research, analysis and authoritative content to inform, influence and guide decision makers. He analyzes market trends, new products / features, announcements, industry happenings and the impact of executive transitions.
Janakiram is one of the first few Microsoft Certified Professionals on Windows Azure in India. Demystifying The Cloud, an eBook authored by Janakiram is downloaded more than 100,000 times within the first few months. He is the Chief Editor of a popular portal on Cloud called www.CloudStory.in that covers the latest trends in Cloud Computing. Janakiram is an analyst with the GigaOM Pro analyst network where he analyzes the Cloud Services landscape. He is a guest faculty at the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIIT-H) where he teaches Big Data and Cloud Computing to students enrolled for the Masters course. As a passionate speaker, he has chaired the Cloud Computing track at premier events in India.
He has been the keynote speaker at many premier conferences, and his seminars are attended by thousands of architects, developers and IT professionals. His sessions are rated among the best in every conference he participates.
Janakiram has worked at the world-class product companies including Microsoft Corporation, Amazon Web Services and Alcatel-Lucent. Joining as the first employee of Amazon Web Services in India, he was the AWS Technology Evangelist. Prior to that, Janakiram spent 10 years at Microsoft Corporation where he was involved in selling, marketing and evangelizing the Microsoft Application Platform and Tools.

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