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

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?


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