CloudEnterprise.info

Posts Tagged ‘Windows Azure

Everyone suspected that Windows Azure was not a blazing success. Now the official stats seem to suggest that it is pretty much a failure.

Microsoft does not tell the exact number of users it has on their cloud platform – Windows Azure, however a couple of day ago we got the latest vague estimate from the company. Quoting Mary Jo:

“On May 8, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Azure Marketing Bob Kelly provided Merrill Lynch Technology Conference attendees with another tally tidbit. Kelly said Microsoft now has “high tens of thousands of customers” for Windows Azure.”

That was it, so now let me try to interpret what we have heard:

  • I assume that “high tens of thousands” means 50,000 to 100,000 customers,
  • Is that for paying customers or does that include free ones? I assume that if they were paying – Bob would have told us so,
  • Does that include Microsoft’s own teams? Probably, yes. Microsoft teams traditionally view other teams within the company as “customers”,
  • If I have a team of developers working on a project – do these get counted as 1 customer or multiple customers? If everyone is counted the number would have to be divided further. I would assume that the answer is 1 – otherwise, considering that SaaS development and operations are team efforts, the resulting number would get too small.

Now, let me be straight on that, if these assumptions are right, this is a very small number for a platform that was publicly launched in October 2008.

Just to put that in perspective, the company for which I work now – Jelastic (Java PaaS) – launched public beta in October 2011 and last month announced 15,000 signed-up users (including free, trial and beta).

As much as I love our marketing team, the marketing resources that we have are minuscule compared to that of Microsoft, so considering all the efforts that Microsoft made touting Azure everywhere and all the .NET developers their marketing can reach – Bob Kelly’s number is incredibly low.

The previous datapoints that Mary Jo quotes are in line with the current number:

“In 2010, the Redmondians said they had 10,000 Azure customers. In 2011, it was 31,000. (Microsoft officials declined to say if any of these were Microsoft users and how many were paying customers.)”

I have a lot of friends at Microsoft and a lot of sympathy toward the company, so I really hope that some of the assumptions that I made are wrong. If so, I think Microsoft should be more transparent about the way they count “customers”. Giving the number and then letting everyone make their best guesses on how it was counted – is a very bad tactics. People just assume the worst case scenario and this damages, rather than improves the company image.

 

Advertisements

With the recent changes in the leadership of one of Microsoft’s key business units – Server and Tools – from Bob Muglia to Satya Nadella one can’t help speculating what this means for the business unit and how it will affect Microsoft’s cloud strategy, specifically Windows Azure – Microsoft’s platform as a service.

Here’s my uneducated guess based on the assumption that given a new task humans tend to use the same approaches which worked well for them last time, and that Satya definitely got this post as a recognition for successfully rolling out Bing and transforming Microsoft’s search business from nothing to a competitor really frustrating Google.

Here’s what I think Satya will bring to Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business:

  • More focus on online (Azure) than on Windows Server: Bob Muglia made Windows Server business a success, this was his kid, while Windows Azure (one could argue) was kind of a step-child, imposed on him and added to his business during a re-org. Satya will likely feel much different: for last few years he has been “living in the cloud” leading Bing, and Steve Ballmer very explicitly made lack of cloud focus the reason for changing the business unit leadership.
  • Compete against the market leader: Bing clearly was developed to compete against Google. I guess this means that now Azure development will become aggressively anti-Amazon.
  • Acquisitions and partnerships: so far Azure has really been a ground-up effort by Microsoft engineers, Bing team tried to buy Yahoo, and when this did not work hired a lot of top talent from Yahoo and finally essentially acquired its search and ad business. Satya was directly involved in these efforts. So who is a runner up in IaaS business who Microsoft could acquire to get more visible in that space? Rackspace? Savvis? Although, one could argue that search share was more relevant in search advertising business in which the big get bigger (why even bother advertising with small players?) and this advantage of scale is not as relevant in hosting, so acquisitions might not be as effective. We will see…
  • Not sure if Azure appliance emphasis will persist: Azure appliance made a lot of sense under old leadership. Server and Tools Business knows how to sell to enterprises, so let’s turn Azure into an appliance which we can sell to our existing biggest partners and customers. Will Satya feel the same? I don’t think Bing folks were paying much attention to Microsoft’s search appliance strategy leaving this all to SharePoint/FAST and concentrating on pure cloud play…

There were speculations after Ray Ozzie left that Azure might get de-emphasized – after all Azure was one of Ray’s pet projects. With Satya’s appointment, I would say that we should expect Azure to only gain priority at Microsoft. We’ll see how applicable will Bing experience be for making Windows Azure a top player in the cloud platform space.

Is there hard ROI to use a cloud IaaS instead of a server in your garage/basement/on-premise datacenter? I think there increasingly is and justifying self-hosting is getting increasingly tough.

I would actually go as far as posit that you can now get a server in a public datacenter at price comparable to your electricity bill alone!

If you don’t believe me – let’s do a quick math.

Mark Kolich noticed in his blog that the server he had running at his home was consuming 220 W, which at the consumer electricity costs of 12-cents per kWh means:

0.220 kWh * 12 cents = 2.64 cents per hour

Almost 3 cents/hour for electricity alone not taking into account: labor, server hardware amortization, data-storage costs (replacing a failed disk), cooling costs, ISP costs, security costs (routers, firewalls, etc.), power backup costs (a UPS) and so on. Mark notes that he could have probably bought a newer more energy efficient server – but the required investment would not justify the savings.

The shocking part is that the recent price competition of cloud infrastructure (IaaS) and platform (PaaS) vendors took the current cloud servers costs to roughly the same order of costs. Here’s a quick survey of a few major cloud players:

  • Microsoft is rolling out their 5 cent/hour option (with additional further discounts if you pre-pay for reserved use – e.g. say you have a bunch of instances which you have running all the time and you are willing to pre-pay for the next few months).
  • Same thing with Amazon: minimal price (although for a slightly more limited version) is already in 2 cent for Linux / 3 cent for Windows instance area, with reserved/pre-paid option getting as low as 0.7 cents/Linux & 1.3 cents/Windows.
  • Rackspace pricing starts at 1.5 cents/hour for Linux, and 8 cents/hour for Windows.

My take on these numbers is that you need to have a really good reason to go into hosting when there is so much price competition in that space and the margins are going down so fast.

The only good reason I can think of is hosting being your competitive advantage in some way. For example, being a local hosting company in a country which legislation is making it hard to use foreign datacenters. Or offering some level of compliance which public hosters cannot provide. And as a matter of fact both of these differentiators are gradually going away with the vendors quickly getting all the possible certifications and compliance stamps you can think of, as well as opening datacenters around the globe.

Cloud is cheaper than your own hosting regardless on how you calculate the costs. Get used to it.

Dmitry

private-cloudMaybe not just yet unless you are an extremely large hosting company or enterprise with big IT and research and development (R&D) budgets.

To re-cap, this week at its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) Microsoft announced that together with their hardware partners they will start offering (some time later this year as a limited release for folks like Dell, HP, Fujitsu and eBay) Azure containers basically giving others the ability to run pretty much what Microsoft is running in their own public Windows Azure cloud datacenters.

This is an important move from Microsoft which they kind of hinted in the past and something we expected them to do back in 2009. Microsoft is not the only hosting company in the world, and there are governments and enterprises who – for security and other reasons – are continuing to invest in their own datacenters – these are big markets which Microsoft wants to address and not let go to VMware and other competitors.

However, the biggest drawback which all observers seem to be missing is that while Azure technology stack is similar to regular Microsoft Windows/IIS/SQL/.NET stack, it is not completely identical. You just cannot take an existing Windows Server application and point it to Azure. Even Microsoft’s own flagship server applications such as Exchange, SharePoint and Dynamics CRM and ERP systems do not run on Azure. Applications actually have to be ported to Azure which is certainly doable but does require R&D efforts on the side of application creators.

Today the set of applications available for Azure is so limited that I can probably count them with my fingers: Microsoft ported their SQL database, SugarCRM just released an Azure version of their tool, Quest Software has a set of cloud-based management services for administrators, and FullArmor has a beta of their endpoint management tool.

Maybe there is one or two other application that I missed – but you get the story. As of today, even if you get an Azure container (and you actually have to buy one – you will not be able to re-purpose the servers you already have) – there is not much you will be able to run on it.

For eBay this maybe worth it – they have their own custom-developed application and big budgets for developing and improving it. For most other folks out there – applications need to come first and make private Azure valuable enough. I am not saying that this will not happen – folks in Redmond are doing their best to recruit their partners to form the Microsoft cloud ecosystem – but we are definitely not there yet.

Microsoft’s TechNet EDGE posted a video with quite detailed discussion of Systems Management as a Service concept, example of such a service (Quest OnDemand), how it uses Windows Azure as the underlying technology, the security model behind it, and so on. Obviously a demo is in there as well.

Check out the video here.

Here’s a 3 minute video which Windows Azure team shot when they caught me in the hallway after one of the days at the Microsoft PDC conference last November.

It is short but hopefully provides look into why we are using Azure and building our Quest OnDemand Systems-Management-as-a-Service offering.

Ben Riga posted a video recording with a fairly detailed discussion we had at Microsoft PDC about Quest OnDemand (Quest’s Systems Management as a Service offering):

In that discussion we have covered quite a few topic which I hope you will find interesting:

  • What is Systems Management as a Service and how it is different from all other *aaS offerings,
  • How SaaS can increase market penetration,
  • Quest strategy in SaaS vs. on premises products,
  • Why and how we picked Windows Azure as our platform,
  • Which code from existing on-premises products could be re-used and which had to be developed from scratch,
  • Some details on the product architecture including security and multi-tenancy.

One thing I could not help noticing is how the UI of the service itself changed between this shooting in November and the way it looks today. I guess this is a testimony of how SaaS model lets vendors innovate fast.

Check out the video here.


RSS My company’s main blog

My Recent Tweets

Blogroll

Legal

The posts on this blog are provided “as is” with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of my employer Jelastic or anyone else for that matter. All trademarks acknowledged.

© 2008-2012 Dmitry Sotnikov

%d bloggers like this: