Earlier this month, Microsoft started moving Photosynth, its cool immersive camera application, to the Microsoft Azure Platform as a Service. The move was the start of a flow Microsoft legacy apps — many of which it already hosts but not on Windows Azure — to its cloud platform. Microsoft’s goal all along was to put most — if not all — of its existing services on Azure, so this is a first step in that direction.
Azure has been available to customers since February 2010, but it would probably reassure many tire kickers to know that the software company is putting its own bread-and-butter applications on the infrastructure before they feel comfortable making that move themselves. In April, at its Convergence 2011 conference, Microsoft said it would move the first of three enterprise resource planning (ERP) products to Azure. That product, Dynamics NAV, should be on Azure sometime in 2012 with the other two to follow.
Photosynth, which uses reams of crowd-sourced digital photo data (it weighed in at more than 40TB when the migration started), may be a good test of the migration process, at least in terms of data. According to the Photosynth blog post:
When we launched Photosynth more than three years ago Microsoft didn’t have a general-purpose cloud-based storage and distribution network, so we used a partner to provide storage and CDN (Content Distribution Network) services. But things have changed dramatically in the last few years, and our own Windows Azure is now among the strongest cloud solutions in the industry. We’re excited to be “eating our own dog food”, as we say, and moving every last Photosynth pixel to Azure.
On the other hand, Photosynth, which was born of the web, is a relatively new application compared to Dynamics ERP, not to mention SharePoint and other client-server applications. Microsoft already offers hosted CRM, Office 365 and other services, but they run on older Microsoft hosting infrastructure.
Microsoft chose NAV as its first cloud ERP service because it’s one of the newer and more web-enabled of the Microsoft ERP code bases. The older the application, the more steeped in the rich-client legacy, the harder it will be to move it to the cloud and retain the rich user experience these customers have come to expect. For that reason, the transition of these older apps to the new Azure platform may prove trickier.