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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(s msft) hopes to prove Windows Azure a worthy adversary to Amazon(s amzn) 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(s hpq), 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

6 Responses to “New Windows Azure goes all-SSD to one-up Amazon in the cloud”

  1. Robert Jenkins

    It is great to see some movement and product development happening in the IaaS space as ever.

    SSD storage is critical to moving core systems into the cloud however it needs to be delivered as part of a tiered storage approach. That means having a flexible implementation of IaaS itself which enables customers to easily tailor on a server by server resources and storage types just as customers would do in dedicated hardware.

    Customers can and should retain the same degree of control over their infrastructure in the cloud as they have on dedicated hardware. Some questions customers should consider:
    – can I purchase resources unbundled and customise my infrastructure on a server by server basis? i.e. no resource bundling, no fixed server sizes
    – does the fundamental IaaS implementation contain the baked in flexibility to support flexible cloud infrastructure deployments? For example, can I mount multiple drives of different storage types to a server?
    – am I billed in a granular way based on the resources I am assigning to servers?
    – can I flexibly buy resources over time in a dynamic way? For example, if I need to add a couple of GBs of RAM to my database server, can I do it? What is the provisioning delay? Am I forced to upgrade to a much bigger server causing over-provisioning?

    For SSDs we have offered these since Q4 2011 and they are very popular however most customers deploy them in a tiered strategy. Namely they will mount a smaller SSD drive and move key parts of their storage to that drive that require low latency and high IO throughput whilst retaining the bulk of storage on cheaper magnetics. The key is to match storage type to storage need which gives customers purchasing efficiency.

    Flexibility combined with granular billing and efficient purchasing equals amazing PRICE/PERFORMANCE which is the relevant metric here. Our cloud is designed to delivery a virtual data center to customers building out cloud infrastructure. SSDs are definitely part of that story and it is frankly surprising why they aren’t more widely offered by IaaS clouds.

    Best wishes,


    Robert Jenkins