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The New Face of Total Domination: Windows Azure – IaaS @ General Availability

Today (April 16, 2013) a lot of new Windows Azure features, services and support is going into General Availability (GA) on the Platform. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) on the Microsoft Platform was one of the BIG announcements made on June 7th last year. Today less than a year in preview Microsoft flexes their muscles showing clearly that they have no intention to be a Perpetual Beta.

This is sort of the follow up to my blog post on June 7thAnd Windows Azure Takes The Lead…”. Since that announcement-day the AWS team (and other competitors) must have had constant nightmares about this day. Well folks the dread is here when Microsoft in true “let’s pulverize what the others do by offering services and service that they cannot match”-style send a very clear message to the market: Weather you want to be completely or partially in the Cloud you will not get better service, support and features from anyone over Microsoft Windows Azure.

An already classic blog post Bill Hilf, General Manager for Windows Azure, states that Microsoft is in it for the enterprise, and his announcement blog post today talks about the power of ‘AND’: Customers want to be supported running machines on premise AND in the Cloud AND they want to be able to flow instances and workload from one to the other scaling out and rationalizing production environments as they please using Windows Azure. Here is the more technical announcement by Scott Guthrie: Windows Azure: General Availability of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Right now we need some cool tunes to emphasize what I want to say here – how about the classic Avengers?

My analysis is this: It is a well-known fact that other Cloud vendors have features in the market with great market shares that Microsoft is just now bringing online. Having that said Microsoft has a lot of features already in their Platform that no competitor offers. They are adding more and more goodness almost weekly to fill out their offering while at the same time closing the few gaps they had. It has to suck being a competitor to Microsoft in this space when they, as a company which is all about creating Server System Platforms, have turned their full focus and resources towards making their Cloud Story really #epic. Just sayin’!

Better together

We MVPs are a privileged group that get to hear about these kinds of announcements even before they are announced. I’ve suffered from an itchy trigger finger on the publish button for this post. I am happy to see that some of the feedback myself and others have given are part of what is now being communicated.

What I feel is one of the most important facts is that there is no real divide between IT and Dev. OK even I am not that naïve – there is a divide.

In Windows Azure it is diminished by the fact that you can run VMs on your own servers, in the Cloud and/or both! Have it your way – as the famous burger commercial goes! IT can run Azure VMs using the same System Center tools they have always used. Development tools with Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server work the same way for the development teams with your servers VMs regardless of where you are running them. And you can use a shared Active Directory to secure and access your servers seamlessly no matter if they run in the Cloud or in your closet!

Simpy put: Better together – it’s the power of ‘AND’ – nobody wants to choose!

This also means – in case you didn’t think about it specifically – that you are not locked in on the Windows Azure Platform. You can download and upload your VM images and run them, not only in your own data center and in Windows Azure. You can also upload the same ones to AWS and run them there. Or, better yet, move them right out of AWS and fire them up in Windows Azure! :P

Service

Microsoft now offers 99.95 monthly SLA on VMs and 99.99 monthly SLA on Virtual Networks. As far as I know there is no competing monthly SLA offering on Public Cloud infrastructure in the market. There is no single instance SLA for Virtual Machines in Azure.

Also there are new SKUs of VMs available including two high memory variants for high memory workloads; a 28GB/4 core and 56GB/8 core versions.

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If you have MSDN or MPN accounts with Microsoft you get an increased value to these with 50 hours for high memory instances monthly so that you can build and test solutions for these types of VMs.

On the OS side there is also news with the Sharepoint image (eval), BizTalk2013 and SQL Server 2012 Enterprise. Microsoft server software support for Windows Azure Virtual Machines.

If you want any other kind of OS image than the validated and supported ones you can always select one from VM Depot a large community for open source OS images!

Support

One very strong card Microsoft can play here is that the Validated & Supported Microsoft Workloads (the OS images mentioned above) receive full support with just one phone call!

Riiing…

Support Technician: - Microsoft Support this is <some Indian* name spoken by a person with perfect English and an engineering degree higher than yours> how may I help you today?

Customer: - I cannot connect to my Virtual Machine running Share Point in Windows Azure.

ST: We are currently not experiencing any technical service issues in Windows Azure and I see here that I am able to connect to your machine.

At this point competitors support ends and the customer needs to dial another support for OS and product support. “Sorry we offer support on the infrastructure only. What you choose to run on our service is up to you.” But Microsoft Support does not stop here:

ST: … let’s have a look at the Windows Server running on that box and also see how Share Point is configured and what might be in the logs of the two of them.

Sure this is a fictive conversation – it would not really sound like this but it shows you how powerful the support would be when you are running Microsoft Validated Workloads on Windows Azure Infrastructure as a Service! Take that AWS!

* Another fact is that there are also quite a few local support teams ready to deal with support in your language. So I’m sorry if I indicated that that all support technicians are from India – a lot of them are. So let me stress that I have had really stellar support from anyone I have ever dialed at Microsoft. Yes I’ve placed a few support calls – remember I preview test almost everything in the platform.

Global reach

I’ve said it before but here are some facts that are worth repeating: Microsoft Windows Azure is available in 89 countries and has a single consistent price point across all regions. Furthermore Microsoft does business in 19 currencies all over the world. (Ama$on for instance does business in USD only.) Why should you do business with your IaaS platform vendor in a foreign currency while doing other business in your local currency? Why would you want to?

Well I guess I’d better stop glorifying the Windows Azure Platform now otherwise you might think I’ve drunk all of the Kool-Aid! J

Just one more kind of unrelated thing – yet it’s not:

Global Windows Azure Bootcamp

Almost as if it was a thought, which it wasn’t I should know being part of organizing this event, the Global Windows Azure Communities are running bootcamp events – one day free training – all over the word on April 27th. Find a location near you and learn about how Windows Azure will transform your business starting today!

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GWAB Web site:

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GWAB on the Windows Azure Facebook page:

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And GWAB on Scott Guthrie’s blog!

This is an event of the community, by the community and for the community! The Windows Azure Community is such a great and fun community of excellent and enthusiastic experts that you wouldn’t believe it – it must be experienced!

Summary

It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with a Platform as HUGE in features and functionality with such a wide range of integration points with all the things that any development/maintenance project could ever dream about. Being a Windows Azure expert surely is a BIG challenge since the Platform comprises everything Microsoft ever built and will build in the future. Now I know how a doctor specializing in general medicine must feel.

IaaS added to the Windows Azure Platform – check! What’s next – let’s stay hungry?

Cheers,

Magnus

Posted by: Magnus Mårtensson
Last revised: 2013-04-16 02:56 History

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