Microsoft's latest pitch to business: Make Windows Azure 'your datacenter'

Microsoft's latest pitch to business: Make Windows Azure 'your datacenter'

Summary: Microsoft is honing its public-cloud pitch, appealing to enterprise users, just ahead of its annual management conference.


Next week is Microsoft's annual Microsoft Management Summit conference in Las Vegas. No, I won't be there (me and Las Vegas -- we're not friends). But I have been combing through the session list for the event, which runs from April 8 to April 12.


In case you don't already know about MMS, this isn't a show for tech wimps. It's for IT managers who love things like System Center Configuration Manager Service Pack 1 and User State Migration Tookit 5.0. But it's also a place where some of Microsoft's higher-level messaging around Windows Server, System Center and Windows Azure occasionally bubble up.

Two of the sessions from the online MMS catalog piqued my interest because of their focus on getting enterprise users to see Windows Azure as YOUR datacenter."

WS-B331 Windows Azure and Active Directory
Speaker(s): David Tesar
Track(s): Windows Server & Azure Infrastructure
Session Type: Breakout Session
Product(s): Active Directory, Windows Azure
In this session you will learn how to plan, deploy and manage Active Directory within Windows Azure. Windows Azure is YOUR datacenter. Deploying Active Directory within your cloud is a key part of enabling LOB applications to work.

WS-B333 Windows Azure in the Enterprise
Speaker(s): Karri Alexion-Tiernan, Venkat Gattamneni
Track(s): Windows Server & Azure Infrastructure
Session Type: Breakout Session
Product(s): Windows Azure
In this session, you will discover how you can make Windows Azure YOUR datacenter. From compute and storage on demand, to messaging and identity services, come and see how you can power your enterprise today with Windows Azure.

I haven't heard Microsoft make this pitch in this way before. Sure, the company has been encouraging corporate customers to go the Azure route, by onboarding their existing apps using the still-in-preview Azure virtual machines and/or by writing new applications that take advantage of Windows Azure's platform-as-a-service capabilities. (This is in addition to encouraging developers of all stripes, including mobile developers, to write apps that connect to the Azure cloud.)

But telling enterprise customers that Windows Azure, which is hosted by Microsoft in its own datacenters, to consider Azure THEIR datacenter is new. (New to me, at least.)

A few years ago, Microsoft was moving toward providing its largest enterprise customers and partners with an Azure-in-a-box capability, via Azure appliances. This effort seems to have been tabled, best I can tell. Instead, Microsoft has been adding Azure features to Windows Server, enabling its hosting partners to turn their implementations of Windows Server into something that more closely resembles Windows Azure. There have been hints that Microsoft might allow large customers to deploy these same Azure features internally, but so far no announcement to that effect.

This doesn't mean that enterprise users, even those who are not sold wholescale on this public cloud thing, can't find some ways to use parts of Azure today, as Windows Azure General Manager Bill Hilf explained in a succint but largely overlooked post from a week ago.

Among the ways enterprise users can tap into Azure, according to Hilf:

  • Store, back up and recover their data in the cloud at a lower cost than using SAN technology, via Windows Azure Storage plus StorSimple, Windows Azure Online Backup and/or SQL Availability Groups. (Note: Microsoft execs are going to be talking about StorSimple -- the cloud-storage appliance technology Microsoft acquired last year -- at MMS.)
  • Tap into "the power of big data" by pairing Azure Websites with HDInsight, so as to mine data, generate business analytics and make adjustments
  • Integrate with on-premises Windows Servers; Linux servers; System Center; data services for SQL, No SQL; .Net, Java, Node.js, Python . (However, speaking of integration, the Azure team hasn't said anything lately about what's going on with its various Azure networking services -- including Windows Azure Connect, a k a "Sydney" and Windows Azure Virtual Network, a k a "Brooklyn." But maybe those will exit preview in the coming weeks/months, along with the aforementioned Virtual Machines for Linux and Windows Server.)
  • Test services and apps quickly by using Windows Server/Linux Server virtual images (though this capability, as I've noted before, is still in preview right now).

One other MMS session that I found interesting: Windows RT in the Enterprise. Yes, Microsoft is still maintaining that Windows RT devices aren't just for consumers. And no, no one should expect to see Outlook RT debut there. It's coming. Not yet, though....

Topics: Cloud, Enterprise Software, Linux, Microsoft, Windows Server


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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  • Only if you want to go out of business

    Given how unreliable Azure has been and that it's tied to the unreliable Windows ecossytem, seems destined to be failure....
    • Tied to the Windows ecosystem?

      Sounds like you haven't used Azure at all. See the second option down on this page:
    • go eat some memory pills

      and figure out the story of strong SLAs around Microsoft cloud solutions and also how miserable other solution in the market have been doing. and you certainly don's seem to be an IT guy
      • Azure is not reliable

        for serious business:
    • Far more reliable than the offerings from google, amazon, rackspace, vmware

      And also much better perf and the only real paas cloud there is. And for enterprizes not in the cloud yet big savings.
      Johnny Vegas
      • I would say Cloud dangerous. (on anyones solution)

        Office 365 recent downtime ~48hours,Google (gmail, business apps) recent downtime ~6 hours, Amazon cloud services (while hosting for netflix) a lot at different times. Cloud = big savings and random downtime. Not what I would call a good solution.
        • Reliability will be better and better

          ... in case there is strong built-in support for management, tracing and recovery options (it is) and everybody uses (so tests) it. Nothing is perfect immediatelly, but its the future...
    • Somehow

      I find your comments very unreliable
  • WinRT in the Enterprise

    Definitely interested in that (although I won't be there to hear it) given the extensive research Rocky Lhotka has done on the apparent issues:
  • Microsoft's latest pitch to business: Make Windows Azure 'your datacenter'

    No reason not to, the rest of your business runs on Microsoft Windows so adding Azure to the mix can only help.
    • correct

      When you are dead, drinking more poison will not make you more dead.

      What about those of us whose business never ran on anything Windows?
      • Migrate

        "What about those of us whose business never ran on anything Windows?"

        You migrate your systems over to Microsoft Windows then reap the benefits like getting promoted for saving the company money.
  • Azure is the future of cloud computing

    So easy to manage, integrate and scale Azure is best positioned to take over enterprise cloud. If your enterprise is a .Net shop, then integrating Azure is very easy.
    • More garbage of the future

      Is is it garbage from the past...

  • I think the real pitch is...

    ...Make Azure part of your datacenter. It possibly makes sense for new applications to target Azure. It makes a lot of sense for apps that need "elasticity" to target Azure. I can also make sense for apps that need lots of horsepower periodically (some compute-centric app that runs once a week or once a month).

    By having Azure and your on-prem AD acting in sync with each other, whether something runs in your facilities or Microsoft's suddenly doesn't matter.
  • Right...

    "Store, back up and recover their data in the cloud at a lower cost than using SAN technology, via Windows Azure Storage plus StorSimple, Windows Azure Online Backup and/or SQL Availability Groups."

    Doesn't work well when the storage/retrieval requires a 1 to 10Gbit link.

    Doesn't work well when the SAN holds 16 TB of data, with random access patterns to the data.

    Doesn't work at all if MS has yet another world wide failure.
  • Regardless of downtimes

    Windows azure and Amazon are among the best enterprise cloud solutions for some tasks. Microsoft is doing a good job with azure even if price can be tricky in some cases.
  • MS Ecosystem

    A couple of things. 1) Why would any company put one of their most precious assets, customer data, in the cloud, I don't understand. Ultra small businesses, perhaps. The inability to access your customer data should strike fear into the majority. 2) The MS ecosystem. Totally unrelated to the cloud, or is it? I have an xBox and a Surface RT. They are supposed to coexit, i.e. be able to share files, etc. They don't. I've purchased a season's pass to a TV show I like and started having problems downloading to both platforms. While MS did fix it, partially, it took them about 30 days to do so. Can a company wait that long for correct access to their data? Data is data, wether it is a tv show or customer data. If you've paid for a service and can't use it or get to the data, it's not much use to the customer. Folks, do not use the cloud to store data!
    Systems Guy