Microsoft on Tuesday said that its Azure cloud computing platform was open for business after more than a year of development. While Redmond may be late to the cloud bonanza, it now has a platform that could become a major force in cloud computing — if it can get developers to trust it. Derrick Harris takes an in-depth look at Azure over at GigaOM Pro (subscription required) to see what exactly Microsoft is offering and how it compares with other clouds.
Derrick is pretty optimistic about Microsoft’s chances to build a developer community for Azure. He said that since Azure offers a platform as a service, a fabric to join public and private clouds, and a robust SQL database, it will meet the needs of many potential customers. From his report:
What sets Windows Azure apart from the competition is that it tries to be everything to everyone, and often times it succeeds. For example, the sheer variety of languages and frameworks it supports is rare among PaaS offerings, most of which target one language or stack (e.g., Ruby on Rails or LAMP) and build the best possible service around it. This means that Azure might be attractive to developers who really like to experiment or businesses that run various types of applications, but that Azure won’t likely be the best at serving any particular language (except for .NET, of course). It remains to be seen whether PaaS customers will buy into Microsoft’s reputation and relative openness with Azure, or whether they will take their business to the best clouds for their particular jobs.
The question of Microsoft’s success may boil down to how much enterprises and customers need to consolidate all of their IT operations in a single cloud or with one vendor. It could also depend on whether those customers want to take advantage of the plethora of application-specific or language-specific platforms for each IT function. If they do, then there’s no need for a general purpose cloud that tries to be all things to all developers because customers will seek to find the best fit for each program they want to run.