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Sorting out Microsoft's clouds – Quick Analysis

Watching the World Cup at Sarah & Brady's

Microsoft expanded its cloud offerings today, answering the call for “private cloud.”

Our strategy is to provide the full range of cloud capabilities in both public and private clouds.
Robert Wahbe

After today’s announcements, Microsoft has at least three cloud options for you: a public cloud that’s mostly a platform as a service (Azure), a private cloud in limited release (Windows Azure Appliance), and an outline for building a private infrastructure as a service cloud (“Private Cloud Deployment Kit”).

This is all notable as Microsoft has, until now, really only been know for the first, Azure, which provides a bundle of services for developing applications in several programming languages. Azure remains the only one of these clouds that’s widely, if not generally available.

I’m a bit unclear the “Private Cloud Deployment Kit,” and so far there’s not enough Google juice on whatever solid pages are up to find anything. While there’s a whole slew of .docx’s and .pptx’s on a Microsoft cloud site, the “solution” nature makes narrowing down a specific offering a bit, well, enterprise-y. Which is surprising coming from Microsoft who’s usually very good at not being so.

Evaluating Private Clouds

For private cloud, saving money is your main concern because you’re still worrying about everything.

For the newly announced Windows Azure Appliance, Microsoft is pairing its Azure software offerings with three hardware partners: Dell, HP, and Fujitsu. While they don’t call it a “private beta,” the “limited production release” makes it effectively so, in the Web 2.0 sense at least. This means you’ll need a special relationship with Microsoft (or one of it’s partners) to get Windows Azure Appliance.

Would it be worth it? It’s difficult to tell yet. Once the pricing and final specs are out, you could conceivably compare it to other offerings. For a private cloud, the only thing that really matters is pricing and TCO.

With a private cloud you’re still: managing your cloud, paying for and do any geographic dispersal (and manage the on-the-ground government hijinks there), going to be stuck on upgrade cycles getting hung up on your own fears about upgrading versus staying with what works….

In summary, with a private cloud you’re not getting the advantages of having someone else run the cloud infrastructure.

Clearly, if a private cloud is better than some calcified mess you’re in, then sure. But, the question at the back of your mind should always be: why not make it public cloud? I’m pretty sure there’ll be many legit reasons for several years to come – but things are murky at this point – maybe if you come up against them, you could share them and we could start cutting through the fog.

Nicely, Microsoft’s cloud-based desktop management offering Intune is good context here. Imagine if running all that desktop management infrastructure was no longer your concern. Intune is gated for just small businesses at the moment, but it’s clearly something that’d be appealing to enterprises.

¡Dale Gas!

A cloud announcement is always welcome from Microsoft, they should keep it coming!

Nonetheless, what’s commendable is to get the offering out there. Microsoft has been taking half-steps when it comes to getting cloud offerings in the hands of potential users and customers. The technology has seemed to be there, but the go-to-market has been timid. You can easily chalk it up to internal fears about “cannibalizing” on-premise sales, but the gusto with which Bob Muglia spoke on the topic of cloud at the recent Microsoft TechEd indicated that at least he (the leader of all this within Microsoft) was anything but timid.

(Tim Anderson does raise a good point about Microsoft’s small business product though in his piece on Aurora: it seems like most of those businesses would do better just to go straight to the cloud. I’m sure there’s some interesting trending and reporting Spiceworks could do on that point.)

Helping companies get over Cloud FUD

The biggest problem for cloud appears to be fears over regulations and legalities – it’s like using credit cards on the web in 1994.

We could be on the [public] cloud by the end of the week…. It’s just from compliance reasons we can’t be on there. If you know anyone at the FTC or SEC, please call them up and educate them!
Chris Steffen of Kroll Factual Data

Enterprises are still hung up on running their own clouds. Little wonder with all the regulation and security FUD that’s easy to kick up. There’s really no one out there helping large companies get over and/or defeat that FUD.

For vendors, it’s great. They can charge twice for cloud: once for private cloud transformation, then again for public.

I’m always a fan of “private cloud” as meaning “optimizing how IT is delivered internally.” However, enterprises and cloud-vendors aren’t pushing public cloud enough. Now, it could be the case that technologically it just doesn’t work. Increasingly, it seems like Steffen’s “lawyers” are the primary motivations creating the “private cloud” market which seems like a bit of a bummer.


Disclosure: Microsoft is a client, as are many others in this space.

Categories: Cloud, Quick Analysis.

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