Amazon launches pre-emptive strike against Microsoft's planned cloud platform

Amazon launches pre-emptive strike against Microsoft's planned cloud platform

Summary: Microsoft is gearing up to go big with its plans for its own version of its hosted development platform later this month. But isn't sitting idly by, waiting for Microsoft to rain on its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).


Microsoft is gearing up to go big with its plans for its own version of its hosted development platform later this month. But isn't sitting idly by, waiting for Microsoft to rain on its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

On October 1, Amazon announced that it plans to offer developers this fall the ability to run Windows Server or SQL Server via the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). According to the Amazon Web Services site, "the ability to run a Windows environment within Amazon EC2 has been one of our most requested features, and we are excited to be able to provide this capability."

Update: More on Amazon's Windows-hosting plans can be found on Amazon Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels' blog.

Further details  from the Amazon Web Services site:

"Starting later this Fall, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) will offer you the ability to run Microsoft Windows Server or Microsoft SQL Server. Today, you can choose from a variety of Unix-based operating systems, and soon you will be able to configure your instances to run the Windows Server operating system. In addition, you will be able to use SQL Server as another option within Amazon EC2 for running relational databases."

Amazon currently is conducting a private beta for testers of hosted Windows Server and SQL Server, according to its  site. Amazon is requesting developers interested in using the service fill out a form on the site. The form asks what kinds of applications and services developers plan to build in an Amazon-hosted Windows environment.

Amazon is positioning its hosted Microsoft offerings as "an ideal environment for deploying ASP.NET web sites, high performance computing clusters, media transcoding solutions, and many other Windows-based aplications." Amazon is touting the new Microsoft offerings as part of its plan to "support any and all of the programming models, operating systems and database servers that you need for building applications on our cloud computing platform."

Microsoft, for its part, has been rumored to be building a hosted development platform for more than a year. The company is slated to announce the platform officially at its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles in late October when Bob Muglia, Senior Vice President of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, is slated to unveil Microsoft's "cloud computing platform" during his keynote on October 27.

Microsoft is known to be working on a low-level “cloud OS” that is code-named Red Dog. Red Dog is expected to harness the power of multiple, distributed systems in a datacenter so that cloud apps can be more scalable and easier to write. And Zurich — Microsoft’s extension of its .Net programming model to the cloud — is part of Microsoft's cloud platform, as well, according to various folks in the know. Microsoft's SQL Server Data Services and its "Velocity" distributed caching technology are likely to figure in Microsoft's hosted dev offering, too, as will its virtualization technologies. (The 3PAR blog has a nice explainer of how Hyper-V and virtual storage fit together to enable utility computing.)

Microsoft will be fielding its hosted development environment in an increasingly crowded space. Google, and Oracle are all bidding for pieces of developers' hosted attentions. But for now, Amazon is the big dog.

"Amazon has a lot to learn about serving the enterprise. It's not their forte. The self-service startup and departmental markets, no problem. Big enterprise? It's hard to counter Microsoft's field resources," said a source of mine, who requested anonymity. But he said he wouldn't be surprised if Amazon has a plan there, too.

What do you think of Amazon's new move? Would you rather host your Windows apps in an Amazon cloud -- or a Microsoft-hosted one?

Topics: Enterprise Software, Amazon, Software, Servers, Operating Systems, Microsoft, Hardware, Data Management, Data Centers, Cloud, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Not really fighting MS cloud

    More like fighting the traditional web hosting firms like GoDaddy that too offer Windows Server, IIS, Asp.Net and Sql Server services. Would like to see their pricing model tho.
    • I agree...

      All Amazon is offering is hosted services. Pricing will be the big news, though, and I'll pass judgement then.
      • I agree...

        As long as somebody is selling a MS product they are hardly competing with them.

        They are clients and helping them make money.
    • MS cloud more like Google's?

      I'd be a little surprised if Microsoft's cloud environment isn't more like Google's app hosting than Amazon's Windows VM hosting. Rather than just hosting a Windows VM, I'd expect them to offer a set of APIs (for storage, session management, authentication). If you write your app to those APIs and host it with Microsoft, it will automatically scale. Google's service (currently) only supports Python, while Microsoft's would likely support any .Net language.

      Developers will just have to decide which provider they think will be more trustworthy over the long term.
  • RE: Amazon launches pre-emptive strike against Microsoft's planned cloud platform

    As long as they are offering a Microsoft solution then Microsoft is still the big winner here. Good for them, it spurs competition yet still makes Microsoft's Windows Server readily available to those people who want it.
    Loverock Davidson
  • RE: Amazon launches pre-emptive strike against Microsoft's planned cloud platform

    What's missing is the handling of license fees for Windows Server, SQL Server, and other Microsoft apps running in EC2. See:

  • huh...

    You don't launch a preemtive strike against a dying company like M$ bury it!
    Bad title for the article!
    Linux Geek
    • The troll is strong in this one

      Funny though for every customer that is requesting Microsoft products (a growing number it looks like) is another loss for Linux.

      At this rate you will have to change you name as no one will know what the word "Linux" means..
      • Even Darth Vader came to his senses...

        ...those requesting MS will catch on soon enough.
        • The Darth Vader reference is telling. ....

          It's funny to watch you talk like this, as if Windows is something to come to your senses from, when in fact it's server share keeps growing and server 2k8 is actually accelerating the process. <br><br>
          There are 10s of thousands of companies using Windows server domains with no plans to ever switch under any circumstances. It's been that way since Windows NT 4.0 server was released and the growth since has been phenomenol. Chewing right through the heart of the server world, unix and *x systems and replacing unix systems around the world, which dominated much of the 90s. <br>
          Now it's Windows turn and being the Darth Vader is a fictional character referenced mainly by uber geeks, it follows you statement is also fictional and like Darth Vader, pure fantasy.
          Good luck. I see your posts lately, and recalling what you told me, i'm not surprised about the value of your word.
      • Obvious Troll Is Obvious

        And yet you still got suckered into responding, and came up with this silly statement:

        "Funny though for every customer that is requesting Microsoft products (a growing number it looks like) is another loss for Linux."

        With this logic, every time I buy a pair of Nike shoes that's a "loss" for Addidas. And Converse. And every other shoe maker on the planet. Since there are dozens of shoe makers, each single purchase means DOZENS of losses! Ye gods, it's the end of our economy! Collapse is imminent!

        Some people like Microsoft products, and buy them repeatedly. Those people are unlikely to use Linux. This fallacy is akin to the RIAA's moronic claims that every downloaded MP3 file constitutes a lost CD sale.
  • RE: Amazon launches pre-emptive strike against Microsoft's planned cloud platform

    Amazon cannot do hard core business stuff very well at all. Microsoft will eat their lunch when their own cloud stuff launches in October here. Microsoft created Vista to make the Web and the desktop, ultimately, seamless. All of the buzz words will be there in the MS cloud.
  • Doesn't hurt MS

    I don't think this really hurts Microsoft. After all they're making money off Amazon buying licenses for their server software. Pricing will determine who sticks with Amazon or jumps to Microsofts network. Microsoft stands to gain more than Amazon so long as their pricing is competitive because technically they don't have to license their own software.
    • The voice of reason...

      This type of "strike against MS" mentality is the exact thing that will hurt them. In no other scenario would people see company B using company A's products as a strike against company A. But once again MS will probably try to run them out of business and in doing so eliminate its own customers. Or maybe its actually a defensive play by Amazon...hmmm...

      But honestly the use of Windows defeats the benefit of a service like EC2 unless you aren't paying a per instance license fee. Otherwise put up a Linux distro and enjoy low cost automated scalability.
      • Low cost automated scalability?

        So you just load Linux servers with what? CentOS? And the rest is automated? What part is automated, the cloud piece? Is it not automated with Windows? <br><br>
        The cost of windows server is less than Red Hat over 5 years, so it will require that you have inhouse talent to maintain Linux. <br><br>
        I'm not sure why these Linux "support" houses are springing up all over, as if to say - you'll be needing us? Aren't those Linux support businesses a slap in the face of OSS, which as you claim, doesn't require support? <br>
        Why too confusing and/or contradictory for me. <br><br>
        My clients want Windows solutions and they get major ROI from them. How do i know? I design them and see the end results from an administrative and fiscal perspective. <br><br>
        It's be nice if people would stop with the bull$hit, but then again you are only preaching to the choir here as this place is crawling with Linux fanboys and the windows people here obviously know better, so it's just amusing to witness. <br><br>
        keep it up. Laughter really is the best medicine, and the linux fanboys keep serving it up.
  • RE: Amazon launches pre-emptive strike against Microsoft's planned cloud platform

    This is beginning to be a "geek sex" topic. Everyone is doing it because they can and no one's really looking at whether the end users will actually use, need it or support it. I see no benefit in "cloud computing". Only more security, reliability and data integrity issues. But then, how can anyone stand up to technical juggernauts?
  • RE: Amazon launches pre-emptive strike against Microsoft's planned cloud platform

    What difference does it make? Most of will never use the cloud, whatever it is, and especially Windows server. We just use our own PC with everything installed on it. I don't want to go back to terminals and central computers like we had 20 years ago. I do not have a job where I worry about servers in th efirst place, except whn I turn on my PC, I hope the server is there to allow me to login. Whether a flavor of UNIX/Linux or Windows or some other off the wall system is used, it must interface with the user. You won't find the average computer user using this in the first place.
  • RE: Amazon launches pre-emptive strike against Microsoft's planned cloud platform

    It will be interesting to see how cloud computing pans out. Yes obviously Amazon will have to pay SPLA license fees monthly. So if Microsoft wanted to, they could undercut Amazon's pricing. That's if they wanted to. Their method so far is not to be the low price leader with hosted offerings, as they always position themselves as a premium service (or product,) so we'll have to wait and see.

    The *nix world and the Windows world aren't completely mutually exclusive. It may be cost effective for instance to run Windows Server Web Edition on a cloud (I really am clueless about what a cloud really is though compared to a cluster -- other than having apparent network attached storage and unlimited in size of storage?) because the Web Edition license is cheap if there is no authentication going on with the web site. While SQL Server gets pricy with the SPLA (service provider license agreement.) So if you prefer Windows Web Edition in a cloud, for a web site, why not just go with MySQL instead of SQL Server at EC2? It would be much cheaper.
    • I wandered lonely as a ..

      A clould is just a server farm thingy but no-one knows where it is. A hosted service is a server farm and you do know where it is.

  • I can't wait for the "cloud" to blow away...

    This is getting old. The "cloud" still remains highly
    undefined and highly unused. It will eventually
    become vapor ware just like any other "press fodder"
    of the past 4 decades of computing.