Thursday, June 7, 2012

Expanding Windows Azure

In my previous post I wrote about how the line between an IaaS and PaaS service provider is fading away with overlaps between the services they offer. Now, Azure is taking another step forward towards IaaS. Today is going to be a big day in the Azure world as some interesting announcements are expected in the Meet Windows Azure event. Azure team has spilled some beans in their blog about what's coming in.

Virtual Machines - ability to spin up Virtual Machines in the Azure cloud. Till now, you deploy the application on Azure and Azure takes care of the infrastructure provisioning. If you suspect any problems you can always login remotely to the Virtual Machine that Azure has provisioned for your application. You can probably perform some troubleshooting tasks on the VM but you cannot perform any changes and persist them. If you want to deploy a new change that needs to come through the Visual Studio route where you deploy a new version of the application. Azure will then take care of pushing the changes to the underlying VMs or spin up new ones. In AWS terms, you cannot create new server images from a running VM. But looks like that is going to change from today. Windows Azure Virtual Machines are going to be available where one can spin up new VMs.

Linux Instances - Now this is a major push from Azure. The ability to spin up Linux based VMs within Windows Azure. Yes, on Window Azure. Yes, pinch yourself. Read it again - Linux Instances on Windows Azure. I am wondering whether MS will go for re-branding by removing Windows from Windows Azure :)

Virtual Private Network - Creating a Virtual Private Network within Windows Azure with IPSec connectivity to your data center. A service very similar to Amazon Virtual Private Cloud. I believe, using this service, one will be able to create an isolated portion within Azure and setup the infrastructure within that. It will be interesting to see what will be possible within a Virtual Private Network. And this is a must have feature to tap into enterprises.

Azure Websites - Ability to directly deploy popular open source stack like Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal within Azure. I guess this service is going to be something similar to AWS Elastic Beanstalk. The Azure team is probably little late in realizing that currently the major players who are adopting public cloud are SMBs. SMBs heavily utilize open source technologies and Azure has realized that they need to get those customers on board as well. And with "Azure Websites" they are probably extending the simplicity of deployment and management that a pure PaaS application enjoys to Wordpress, Joomla and the likes.

These are the main offerings that has come out yet and may be the Azure team has something more as a surprise in the event today. But how far customers will embrace these and move into Azure is something that needs to be watched. AWS is way ahead in terms of the sheer number of services and offerings.

Azure is adding more IaaS elements to its offerings on top of the PaaS offering that it originally started off with. Similarly AWS is also adding PaaS like services (may be not pure PaaS) on top of the IaaS services and components. I think a new model is evolving where few years down the line we will see what is called as "IT as a Service". Service providers are not going to be pure IaaS or PaaS providers. Rather something like an ITaaS. The entire IT is going to be offered as a service where different environments like dev, staging, production will be running out of the Cloud. The service providers will also offer source control repositories and testing services. Web application developers will just use their IDE's which will have all required plugins and will carry out their development. When production ready the artifacts can be directly pushed to the production environment. This will also enable flexible development models where developers can work from anywhere and seamlessly integrate. All one needs will be the internet connectivity.

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