October 27, 2008 |
Earlier today at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) Microsoft has provided details on what we should expect from its promised cloud operating system.
The offer that was revealed today was initially referred to as Red Dog or Windows Strata or Windows Cloud at different times. Today we know the real name and it is Azure. The community technology preview of the new platform is already available to developers while the commercial version of the new operating system will not be available at least until late 2009.
Basically the cloud OS by Microsoft is intended to serve as a platform for developers who may want to host their web applications remotely in Microsoft’s network of datacenters. Mary Jo Foley has a great explanation of the platform architecture and principles of operation.
Of course it is not a Windows operating system as we usually think of it – Windows Azure has almost nothing to do with our desktops as end users will still have to have an operating system on their desktops and browsers installed to access web applications hosted on Azure. At the same time the Microsoft’s cloud platform will serve as a new web-based environment for application developers.
But what is important to me as a consumer of web applications and everything that works out of the cloud, is how exactly the platform will be used and how it will benefit an ordinary user. First of all, the platform will host a few Microsoft’s own applications, like SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Dynamics CRM Online. Also third-party developers will code and deploy applications of their own to run on the platform – these developers will pay for use of the service to Microsoft with no details of the pricing available for now. Also I think it is worth noting that Microsoft actually promises to offer hosted versions of all its enterprise applications on the platform – in this case I am perfectly sure Microsoft will charge end users for the applications that are now distributed as desktop software.
What I don’t understand here is why Microsoft necessary needs to name everything an operating system even if in reality it does not resemble what we now know as operating systems at all. With similar offerings from Amazon (Amazon Web Services) or Google (Google App Engine) and other companies already operating in the market successfully, maybe the term cloud operating system was needed to somehow differentiate Microsoft’s offering and for the software giant not to look like they simply enter the crowded market where others already innovate.
I also see another problem for Microsoft venturing to the cloud computing market with Azure. The problem is mainly is in the perception of the company in the developers community. It is well-known that Microsoft products rarely are admired by developers for their reliability and the company itself is often criticized by the developers community for its clumsy attempts to finally build some presence online. Obviously, for developers to adopt this new platform where competitors already exist Azure needs to be a great offer to persuade the developers they need this particular solution and prove it will actually offer a perfect infrastructure and reliability – along with some very competitive pricing.