Why I Like Microsoft in the Clouds

It is odd to see a company filled with open source wonks excited about working closely with Microsoft. However, the guys in Redmond have a pretty strong vision for cloud computing in Azure – one that I personally feel is different than anyone making a major play for the cloud today.

Why? Well, for a number of reasons. For one, Microsoft is looking at the cloud as less of a compute power play as many of the early cloud players saw it, and more of a distributed business stack, available at any time and with scale. What I mean is, Microsoft is probably the most application focused cloud player out there. (Note: I don’t believe anything Salesforce.com does is really cloud computing.)

Microsoft owns, operates and understands a full service stack. This is a big benefit when porting to a cloud environment. While it may seem like a limitation, it is actually in my opinion a strong point. Microsoft is able to fully control the OS, database and web servers etc. as it creates a cloud environment. Sure, there is a proprietary aspect – but most of the apps running on top of Azure will not touch anything other than the database in any profound manner. Other cloud providers are working with a few distributions of Linux and other open source back end components – which is great for economy and scale – but these providers do not “own” the system entirely. It’s just a “nice to have” Microsoft has in its favor.

Another big factor is that Microsoft has been playing more of an interoperability game with Azure than it ever has – as far as I’ve seen. I mean, they are working closely with us, a PHP-based application, to make sure Azure can support apps written in as many languages as possible. This is a major development (in a good way) from even a couple years ago when IIS was not the ideal web server for running PHP apps (to put it lightly).

All told, when it comes to applications in the cloud, it will be the large scale providers – not the small, limited vendor-hosted SaaS providers that will realize the potential of running your business in the cloud. Vendor-hosted SaaS is great for some companies and a lot of different business needs, but for truly cloud-based operations – these guys fall short.  It is great to see companies like Microsoft supporting the notion of the Open Cloud.

6 thoughts on “Why I Like Microsoft in the Clouds

  1. Pingback: Microsoft in the clouds

  2. Hi Martin,
    Can you expand on this:
    “What I mean is, Microsoft is probably the most application focused cloud player out there. (Note: I don’t believe anything Salesforce.com does is really cloud computing.)”

    What is your definition of cloud computing?


  3. Vijay,

    The true essence of cloud is about scalability, and utilizing resources as needed. You can argue that a per-user licensed concept like CRM is anathema to what the cloud promises. What I mean is – the cloud is a delivery platform for either computing resources or applications. The apps themselves are NOT clouds or cloud computing. There is nothing you can do with Salesforce.com (or any other SaaS CRM) that you cannot do in any other environment – actually you have less power in a monolithic multi-tenant cloud environment because you are fixed to the vendor’s resources, SLA and terms of service. The cloud is a limiter, not an enabler here.

    Now, if you take a product built for the open cloud such as SugarCRM – now you have choice. Choice in deployment options (public cloud, private cloud, vendor-hosted, partner-hosted etc.) – and you have various access levels therein. And, when needs change, you can move from one cloud environment to another. That limits risk, and opens up options for greater (or less) access, control, costs, as needed. None of the old multi-tenant SaaS products can do this – as they are tethered to that singular, limited environment. It is not a “bad” thing necessarily – but it is simply a limitation and NOT indicative of the openness and portability I associate in my definition of true cloud computing.

    How does Microsoft fit in? They are creating an environment that is well suited for application deployment, development, or both. Instead of taking a Salesforce.com lock-in approach and saying “only Microsoft apps are going on Azure!” they realize the value of true, open clouds and are saying “come one, come all!” because it is the flexible, scalable environment (not the lock-in app strategy) that will enable the cloud concept to thrive among businesses of all sizes.

    To put it more shortly: Clouds are operating environments that enable users to either scale compute power or deploy applications without having any infrastructure in-house.

    Multi-tenant SaaS is NOT cloud computing, it is just a delivery model for static, traditional applications.

  4. Martin,
    In my view, the term “Computing” is very broad, and therefore “Cloud Computing” is also ambiguous.

    “Computing” (apart from the Cloud) can mean different things. In terms of the stack, there are infrastructure, platform, application, and client layers, which all represent varied aspects of computing. “Cloud” also has varied meanings, but the theme most agree on is the abstraction or virtualization of lower level infrastructure.

    When each of the different computing layers are moved to the Cloud, there are naturally different types of clouds. The article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing seems to do justice to this complexity.

    So, I don’t think it is accurate to say that the Infrastructure/Platform Cloud (Azure) IS Cloud computing, and Multitennant SaaS is not. They simply represent different types of computing at different layers of the stack. Each one virtualizes the layers below them, so that users have less to worry about. Multitennant SaaS is at the application level of the stack, while Azure and other similar Platforms are at the lower levels. Each one has their advantages, and I’m sure they are both going to grow in the future.


  5. If Microsoft is sticking their fingers in something that means end of it. They see only proprietory business opportunities and they are only taking without giving anything back to community. Clous computing is still in development, but I am affraid before whole product will be finished and tested it will be branded as well! There is not many open source CRM projects, some of the previously open projects turned into proprietory market already and not cheap either. Microsoft and its monopoly greed can easily turn whole cloud and CRM into Microsoft’s property.

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