New Windows Azure goes all-SSD to one-up Amazon in the cloud

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Just when you thought the cloud computing wars couldn’t get more interesting, they do. On Wednesday, Microsoft hopes to prove Windows Azure a worthy adversary to Amazon with new solid-state storage cloud, dramatically revamped REST API, and a console to meld management of on-premises and Azure-based applications on one screen.

Those new perks, along with the long-rumored persistent Linux VM and other open source friendly and infrastructure as a service features will be unveiled Wednesday, a day before the planned Meet Windows Azure event in San Francisco to pre-empt Oracle’s cloud computing announcement, sources said. Microsoft would not comment for this story.

The new REST API that controls the entire system is completely rewritten, sources said.  “Prior to this release, the Azure APIs were inconsistent. There was no standard way for developers to integrate their stuff in. That all changes now,” said one source who has been working with the API for some time and is impressed.

Another source said the all-SSD block storage infrastructure boosts performance and differentiates Azure from AWS, which offers solid state storage, but only with some higher-end services like DynamoDB.

Microsoft introduced Azure in February 2010, as a platform as a service, after years of work and billions in investment. Unfortunately for the company, Amazon’s infrastructure-as-a service in the meantime had taken the world by storm as developers flocked to the inexpensive  platform to develop, test and deploy new applications. Although Amazon Web Services  and Azure were not directly comparable, AWS definitely stole the march on Microsoft.

Clearly, an array of would-be Davids are trying to slay the AWS public cloud Goliath. AWS is by any count, the largest public cloud. Microsoft Azure, which corporate VP Scott Guthrie will still tout at the Thursday event, is an aggressive effort to take the fight to Amazon’s doorstep. Hewlett-Packard, which had been making noises about taking on Amazon cloud directly, soft pedaled that rhetoric Tuesday at HP Discover, even saying that customers running on HP’s cloud will be able to “burst” workloads into Amazon EC2, as well as Savvis clouds. I don’t expect Microsoft to be making the same kinds of accommodating noises over the next few months.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user D.Begley

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