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Microsoft's cloud strategy

John Gallant, IDG Enterprise, and Eric Knorr, (Computerworld US) | Oct. 11, 2010
In-depth Q&A: Microsoft's Bob Muglia details cloud strategy

I've got to back up to Windows Azure before I talk about the Azure appliance. What is the benefit that we can see for moving to a cloud environment? We learned this ourselves as we deployed consumer services. Our initial consumer services, our initial MSN services, were deployed largely the same way that any enterprise would build an internal application. They used standard servers, standard operational practices. As we built a large number of these services and they started scaling at large numbers, the cost of operations associated with that just got out of whack for us. It wasn't a sustainable business model.

And when we created Bing, we knew we were going to create a massive -- we needed to create a massive scale service because that's what an internet search system is. I mean it's a service that's measured in hundreds of thousands of servers, you know, not even tens of thousands. If we ran that in a traditional way, it was going to be non-viable. So, we built a system with Bing that was a proprietary system designed to enable us to roll out thousands and thousands of servers with very low operations costs. And it worked. It was not general purpose, however. It was not something we could take and offer to our customers or even, frankly, apply broadly within Microsoft.

So, we used the technologies that were pioneered with Bing and we built Windows Azure with the fundamental idea that the application is what you focus on. You don't focus on the infrastructure. With Windows Azure, the application never thinks about a virtual machine. To me that's the definition of PaaS [platform-as-a-service]. With infrastructure as a service, you're managing virtual machines and there are benefits to managing virtual machines at scale. With PaaS, you never see a virtual machine. You focus on the application. With Windows Azure that's the design point we built. The whole system, the infrastructure is all self-maintaining. All you worry about is how you write that application so it scales out and uses these underlying services.

When customers looked at that in our public cloud environment, many said to us, 'We love that, but we want to run it in our own data center .' Or, hosters and systems integrators have said, 'This is a great model to enable applications to be built, but we want to provide it to our customers as well.' That's why we are creating this Windows Azure appliance -- to essentially package what we've learned, the service that we run every day, and deliver it together with hardware that you acquire from one of our industry partners, one of our OEM partners, and run it in a customer or a service provider data center .

 

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