Will Microsoft allow enterprises to do on-premise hosting based on its cloud computing Azure platform? The latest -- and perhaps final -- answer is no.
Since Microsoft first rolled out its Azure cloud platform last fall, I've seen conflicting reports about whether or not the Redmondians will provide business users with some way to do private/on-premise cloud computing via Azure (i.e., host the Azure operating system and/or Azure services themselves in their own datacenters, instead of in Microsoft's Quincy, Wash., and/or San Antonio, Texas, ones).
But based on a related e-mail exchange I had recently with Julius Sinkevicius, Director of Product Management for Windows Server, however, I believe Microsoft has no intentions of allowing users to create private, Azure-based clouds. I was asking Sinkevicius for some clarification around Microsoft's recent announcement with Cisco, via which Cisco will offer Windows Server and Hyper-V to Cisco customers who purchase its recently unveiled Unified Computing System blade servers.
Here are a couple of the relevant Q's and A's between Sinkevicius and me.
MJF: Did Cisco ask Microsoft about licensing Azure? Will Microsoft license all of the components of Azure to any other company?
Sinkevicius: No, Microsoft is not offering Windows Azure for on premise deployment. Windows Azure runs only in Microsoft datacenters. Enterprise customers who wish to deploy a highly scalable and flexible OS in their datacenter should leverage Hyper-V and license Windows Server Datacenter Edition, which has unlimited virtualization rights, and System Center for management.
MJF: What does Microsoft see as the difference between Red Dog (Windows Azure) and the OS stack that Cisco announced?
Sinkevicius: Windows Azure is Microsoft's runtime designed specifically for the Microsoft datacenter. Windows Azure is designed for new applications and allows ISVs and Enterprises to get geo-scale without geo-cost. The OS stack that Cisco announced is for customers who wish to deploy on-premise servers, and thus leverages Windows Server Datacenter and System Center.
The source of the on-premise Azure hosting confusion appears to be this: All apps developed for Azure will be able to run on Windows Server, according to the Softies. However -- at present -- the inverse is not true: Existing Windows Server apps ultimately may be able to run on Azure. For now only some can do so, and only with a fairly substantial amount of tweaking.
Microsoft's cloud pitch to enterprises who are skittish about putting their data in the Microsoft basket isn't "We'll let you host your own data using our cloud platform." Instead, it's more like: "You can take some/all of your data out of our datacenters and run it on-premise if/when you want -- and you can do the reverse and put some/all of your data in our cloud if you so desire."
Will Microsoft's data-portability promise be enough to get nervous enterprise users to give Microsoft's Azure platform a chance?