'Everything as a service': A key piece of Microsoft's push to get IT to the cloud

'Everything as a service': A key piece of Microsoft's push to get IT to the cloud

Summary: Microsoft didn't unveil a single new on-premises product at its TechEd 2014 show. But company officials still had a message for the core IT pro/developer audience not yet sold on the cloud.


TechEd is Microsoft's IT pro and developer conference. But at this morning's opening keynote at TechEd North America 2014, Microsoft didn't unveil a single new on-premises product. It was all cloud, all the time.


Company officials aren't simply hoping that IT managers won't notice if its on-premises server wares gradually disappear. Instead, the goal is to lessen the hurdles in making on-premises apps available in the cloud and cloud apps available on-premises.

"Consistency between on-prem and the cloud is a theme," said Cloud & Enterprise Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich.

Microsoft officials have been talking up the company's commitment to deliver new features first in the cloud for the past couple of years. That isn't new. Nor will Microsoft invest in developing anything that is an on-premises-only product, going forward, Russinovich said.

"But we are trying to make it so people can develop, deploy and manage consistently on prem and in the cloud, Russinovich said.

The message here is actually quite similar to the one the Windows client team is espousing as of late with its "universal apps" push. While developers won't ever be able to reuse 100 percent of their code in developing apps that can run on both Windows and Windows Phone, Microsoft's goal is to reduce as much friction as possible. Microsoft's story is very much the same with on-premises and cloud apps, Russinovich said.

"We want users to be able to run modern apps in the cloud and on-premises," he said. "While there still will be some things that are different, we are telling developers to target things in the middle."

To help developers and IT pros bridge the cloud/on-premises gap, Microsoft is turning more on-premises technologies into cloud services. One example: Azure Files.

Azure Files is "file sharing as a service," Russinovich quipped. Azure Files, a public preview of which Microsoft rolled out on May 12, enables a single file share from multiple virtual machines using the SMB protocol, which is commonly used on-prem today. The virtual machines can access the file system using standard Windows file APIs. This will allow users to share persistent data across various roles and instances when VMs are attached to these file systems concurrently.

There were a lot of customer requests for this file-sharing capability, including from the Azure Web Sites team, Russinovich said. They wanted the capability to distribute Web sites between servers via a file share. Microsoft expects the new feature to be popular with third-party developers and IT pros, as well.

Another example of another newly-announced service meant to help bridge the on-prem/cloud gap is Microsoft Antimalware for Azure. In a nutshell, this is "antimalware as a service," Russinovich said.

Microsoft took the engine inside its free, consumer-focused Microsoft Security Essentials offering and made it available in an Azure virtual machine with VM Agent extension support. By having this antimalware capability both on-prem and in the cloud, users can opt to monitor and configure in a consistent way. Users who'd prefer to run a different antimalware solution on Azure -- such as Trend Micro's Deep Security and Secure Cloud or Symantec's Endpoint Protection -- also now have the choice of a third-party antimalware offering on Azure

Microsoft also took the wraps off virtual network (VNET) to VNET connectivity at TechEd today. This is another feature with potential appeal to on-premises app developers, Russinovich said. Microsoft's own SQL Always On team wanted the ability to fail over for two regions. Now they have the option of bridging these with a gateway across regions or in the same region, Russinovich explained.

And then there's disaster recover as a service. At TechEd, Microsoft officials said new capabilities will be coming to Azure Hyper-V Recovery manager, in public preview form next month.

Currently, Hyper-V Recovery Manager is aimed at disaster recovery for System Center private clouds. But in June, customers also will get the ability to replicate virtual machines from their primary site directly to Azure instead of to a second customer site. Microsoft will be renaming Hyper-V Recovery Manager to Azure Site Recovery in June when the preview is available.

Will these latest overtures do anything to win over IT pros and developers who are still not willing to take their first tentative steps toward the cloud? The reaction among the thousands attending TechEd in Houston this week should be a good litmus test.

Related coverage:

Topics: Cloud, IT Priorities, IT Policies


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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  • To Much

    All this talk about the cloud is starting to make me drift off into the cloud and fall asleep.

    On a more serious note I really like the direction things are going. I find on premise reliability is a function of the network administrators skill. Many are very good. Just as many are very bad. Most fall some where in between. More reliance on the cloud will level things out. Overall it will probably be an improvement. I am probably one of the in betweens. I have jumped in and fixed a few of the bad ones. Still, I know I need help on some things and hope the cloud will help me.
    • Except one minor detail.

      I would never put sensitive daw on a Foreign Server. There are many Proprietary items, that Should never be under Microsoft's control. If you give any one entity that much control, over your data, they can, in essence, become a taxing body, charging you 50% of your gross income.
      I hate trolls also
      • Why so much hatred?

        First, Microsoft is not the only game in town. If, by some magic, Microsoft were able to "tax" you 50% of your gross income (I assume this is hyperbole) wouldn't you imagine users would simply move to AWS or Google or HP or a host of other hosts?

        Second, I don't know many sizable companies that don't use co-hosted facilities where they store proprietary items. These computers are not under their direct physical control. The only difference is, they have to pay for the 90% of the time and space they don't use plus the upfront capital expenditures for hardware that depreciates in 2 years. If your prime concern is protecting proprietary data (which is reasonable) start with the assumption that it could end up in someone elses' control and protect accordingly with encryption or other means.

        Reading all the Microsoft bashing in these comments a naive person would think that Microsoft was the only commercial software company in the world, Linux the only alternative and OS and apps from the 90's will work great forever. (hyperbole).
        • What "Hate", Mr. Fanboy?

          If you read, what I posted, you'd see the reality.

          "If you give any one entity that much control, over your data, they can, in essence, become a taxing body, charging you 50% of your gross income."

          Where do I single out your favorite company?

          "If your prime concern is protecting proprietary data (which is reasonable) start with the assumption that it could end up in someone elses' control and protect accordingly with encryption or other means. "

          This is why sensitive data needs to be kept 'in house" Preferably on a server with no connection to the "Internet". Again if you give any one company that much control of your data, you deserve to go bankrupt.
          I hate trolls also
          • Tough Crowd

            In response to your comment, and since the original post was about Microsoft cloud strategies, and you stated "There are many Proprietary items, that Should never be under Microsoft's control." I assumed you were of the belief that Microsoft might somehow "tax" you 50% of your gross income. I found that to be hyperbolic, if not totally ludicrous when you consider the fact that there are plenty of other cloud providers that will keep the cost of cloud computing and storage competitive (this has already been proven if you view the pricing decreases for all the providers).

            Of course, according to you: 'sensitive data needs to be kept 'in house" Preferably on a server with no connection to the "Internet" '. Don't know why quote "Internet" - it is a real thing, it has been around for awhile. But why stop there - just keep it in your "mattress" where it is of use to no one.

            In general I find the comments attached to this post to be somewhat Luddite in nature. Don't know why I got 6 fast flags. Jeez, again, why you guys be hating?
          • Because you jumped in with both feet, without understanding the meaning?

            "If you give any one entity that much control, over your data, they can, in essence, become a taxing body, charging you 50% of your gross income."

            This is a true statement, and a real possibility, if companies are not kept in check. Yes, "sensitive data needs to be kept 'in house" Preferably on a server with no connection to the "Internet"" Again another true statement, If you can access it from the internet, the "bad guys" can too. I have yet to find a solution that is 100% infallible, just like there is no truly "Secure OS". The very though of putting 'Sensitive Data on a Foreign Server, should be grounds for termination (on the spot). This bull crap (and that's exactly what it is), about "Secure cloud hosting" is so bad I can smell it over a mile away. Being security conscious, is not "why you guys be hating", but a form of "Best Practices".
            I hate trolls also
          • What does "secure cloud hosting" smell like? From a mile away.

            You are funny "I hate trolls also".

            Which cloud provider took 50% of one of their client's gross income? Are you saying that Microsoft would hold client data hostage in exchange for "50% of gross income" and expect to stay in business? I really do not see how that plays out.

            Snowden and Manning, Target and the biggest HIPAA/ePHI breach fine ever (at Presby/CU hospitals in NYC) all show that 'in house' data is not any more secure than data stored and controlled in a secure cloud.
          • Is not a "REAL POSSABILITY"

            @I hate trolls also

            Your more full of bologna than a hobos sandwich.

            Where did you get this tripe from?

            "If you give any one entity that much control, over your data, they can, in essence, become a taxing body, charging you 50% of your gross income. This is a true statement, and a real possibility"

            No, its not what any human would ever consider to be a "real possibility". At best its an imaginary or far fetched possibility, but then again so is the concept of a hungry Lion being right outside your door right now.

            Why do you say these thing?? Its just crazy!! Its so silly its laughable. Why do you come up with this nonsense?

            There is plenty about the cloud to complain about, but if any company ever thought they could ever get away with charging you anything close to the realm of 50% of your profits, well, Im sure you could become a multi billionaire by setting up a service offering the same service for 20%. Your speculation is so fantastical it defies sensibility.

            It should simply be suffice to say that if you turn your entire computing power and internet experience to one company they DO have a serious monopoly on you, and they could pressure you into paying excessive fees. And excessive is a real possibility.

            50% is ludicrous. That's what you charge when you want to drive customers away from you as fast as possible at any cost.
    • The whole thing stinks. Its too obvious.

      Ive been saying for probably close to 2 years now that this whole cloud thing is where MS and all the big players want it to go. The reasons are obvious and they are vastly to the benefit of the big IT companies, not the users.

      I wondered why Microsoft was so interested in the cloud. About a year ago it sunk in. Firstly, and foremost above all, Microsoft had seen the writing on the wall with XP. PC sales were slowing and that means new Windows OS licences were slipping as well. There no doubt were fewer upgrade "OS only" purchases. Improved hardware and the refusal of XP to die were the real culprits, yet the ABM crown threw the inevitable red herring in the ring claiming that new tablet purchases were the culprit because Windows was about to die entirely. Common sense said this was dead wrong. Nobody at least in any significant way was replacing their desktop or laptop Windows PC with an iPad. It just wasn't real. Sure, out of a world of seven BILLION people, there are always some who will be the exception to the rule, but there were no piles of no longer needed PC's sitting out back of businesses and I have never been in a home recently that had a PC in the past that still doesn't, even more in home PC's these days due to the broad proliferation of Windows laptops.

      It was a case of "if its still working, why replace it?" Many do rightly ask "don't they know that not giving up XP will open up security risks?? Well, there in exposes part of the fantasizing about problems that don't exist causes. We have heard nothing but claims of horrible security risks from the ABM crowd who claim that Windows PC's "fill up" with viruses and suffer never ending lock ups and BSOD's without end. They obviously say these ridiculous things because Windows PC's have always been much more prone to many more security risks than Linux or even Macs, and Windows machines have had the BSOD issue which did happen from time to time with Windows OS's at least up to XP, so the Windows haters played these tales like a fiddle to make it look like they were the brilliant ones for choosing ABM.

      The problem is, reality, as is often the case was a little different. BSOD's do not happen daily, particularly on workplace PC's that many of which do little more than keep an open line to the internet, do email and produce documents and work some fairly simple applications. While malware has always been significantly more prevalent for Windows machines its no where ever been near causing significant problems for the vast majority of users that the ABM crowd likes to complain of. The end result is that most people have been using XP for about ten years or more and have had so little problem with it, and have heard nothing but garbage about how terrible it is, now that there is genuine possibilities of widespread risk, nobody much in the countless millions of Joe Average crowd believes it. Those who suspect its true but want to continue to use XP because its been so good to them will continue to try and cope with as much AV and anti spyware they can load up on.

      Its been a fantastic and marvelous service the ABM crowd has done for the world in crying wolf all these years. Please attach great sarcasm to that.

      So, here we are, and MS and some others have figured out that when software lasts just about forever, and hardware now only slightly less if you take care of it, it really makes a dent in the repeat sales. So the cloud is now the solution for a much more regular, predictable and steady income stream.

      No more "selling" software to people. Instead, everything is going to be rented by the month. Millions on millions around the world paying monthly fees, no longer just for their internet connection, but for practically everything. Its a great play. Tell people they will always have the newest OS, the newest software and can store their stuff on the most secure servers in the world; much safer than your home PC with its cut rate AV and cheapo firewall.

      What they don't tell you is that over all your going to pay more in the end because you will either pay each month or you will pretty much have nothing.

      Over the years, Ive known a few unemployed people. They were hurting and had to cut their internet connection for a couple months or more. I also know these people still had perfectly functional word processing and office programs and others on their computer and could still play their games and look at their photos and edit and store new ones. And they could make resumes and print them off to look for a new job.

      In a few years, if the big IT players get their way, if you loose your internet connection, for any reason, your in a world of hurt. You got nuthin.

      I still cant believe so many are falling for this just because of a few promises of advantages that could have largely been replicated for the few who really want them with hardware and/or software solutions.

      But no, we have way to many morons who think that no matter what the new invention or way of doing things is, its cool because its new and "leading edge". Even if its just more money out of Joe Averages pocket for less coming back at him.

      To many people that don't look at reality around here. Just like the "Windows sucks" crowd who cried wolf for so many years even the truly non-IT savvy crowd seen it for lies.

      So here we are.

      And no thanks.
      • You make a reasonable case for Linux... thanks.

        With Linux systems you can do what you want, when you want - not what the vendor wants.

        You own your data - not the vendor.

        You own and can control your software - not the vendor.

        You have control over your expenses - not the vendor.

        And yes, XP has been rather poor for security. Win 7 may be better... but has already been hit several times with virus infections (as has Win 8+).
        • Kind of off topic

          This more about services, and not so much about the OS. If you are subscribing to a service, I don't think that having Linux running in your data center is going to change the details of your contract.
          • If you choose to subscribe to a service...

            You then have no control over that service OR the data that service collects/receives from you.
          • Sure you do

            If you don't send the data to the service, it can't collect it ;)
          • Sorry

            That was a sideways smart aleck comment that I just made. Pointless too.
        • GNU/Linux = ultimate freedom

          I couldn't agree more with the comments about all of these big vendors (Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc.) requiring cloud services even for local hardware. Everybody thinks that signing up for cloud services is "normal", "convenient", and "easy". But what are you signing up for? What data is being synchronised? What data is being sent up to servers somewhere on the Internet, being stored and waiting for somebody to access it? Recent posts over in the ZDNet blog by J.W. Watson mentions Windows 8.1 nagging for a Microsoft account during initial setup. Really? An online account needed for a local computer? Once your data is out there, how can you guarantee that it is safe? Even if you "delete" it, how do you know it's actually deleted? No way would I trust any of these big vendors. GNU/Linux provides the ultimate freedom, not requiring cloud synching, no online accounts, just a local computer running with local services, period. Sure, you can synch services that you WANT to sign up for. And that's the beauty of it, control is put in to the hands of the user, not the vendor.
      • Thanks

        An excellent summary of where the big vendors are trying to take us and why.

        For what it's worth, there is no way on this earth I shall be migrating my customers to the cloud unless they specifically request it and the truth is, most of them simply don't trust the big vendors given all the high profile data breaches and US government scrutiny of personal data. There is also the issue of lock in once you have chosen a cloud vendor. Personally, and I'm happy to be proved wrong, I do not think it will be as easy as some folk make out to simply migrate between vendors if you are not happy with one product or service.

        I also do not like what I consider to be the bully-boy tactics MS is using with their on-premise product pricing that is considerably more expensive than the previous versions.

        It's unfortunate, but in the end I suspect this will open the door and force those MS developers who do not want to go down the cloud route to look toward Linux as an alternative. I know I am.
        • right on!

          You go girl--and you won't be alone!
        • Cloud proved us wrong..

          I remember when hurricane Sandy swept NYC, and while most of our cloud based clients were busy trying to reach their host providers (sic, no telephone.. forget about internet), our more traditionally minded customers were able to resume work just fine, when the building they were renting got power ( although they waited 3 weeks with no phones and internet while verizon fixed the pipe).
          Another example that comes to mind is FBI's seizures from 2 year ago, when they raided a data center and left with whole server racks while trying to prevent some wikileaks. Sucks to be collocated on those servers, right?

          To sum up my 2 cents, while owning your hardware sucks because you have to keep greasing it, it does give you an advantage in the case of an act of god, or government.
          Mihai Comanescu
          • What sort of business operates without Internet?

            Obviously, if all of your data is on a cloud server like Azure or AWS, and you do not have internet access then you cannot see your data. However, since you can assume it was not lost to the act of God, or government, it will still be there when you regain your internet access.

            But, in all fairness, what kind of business today operates normally without internet access? Retail can't take credit cards, forget financial, pharma, marketing, advertising, general consulting, energy, or any other business where their telephone system is provided by their ISP. So really, what industry or businesses "were able to resume work just fine"?

            Seriously, I am curious.
          • I guess you do not work in an industry that requires security?

            Such as DoD, Space, or anything to do with National Defense. One screwup can cost the lives of millions, but You'd feel safe leaving sensitive data on a "Public cloud", accessible by anyone from anywhere? Would you put the Nuclear Codes on your Facebook page?
            I hate trolls also