The 3 reasons why Azure and cloud are the heart of the new Microsoft

The new Microsoft has abandoned the Windows-only theme and has embraced cloud. Here are three areas that demonstrate the new focus.

A certain Microsoft CEO once repeatedly yelled the word "developer." I wonder if he knew how important the group would be to Microsoft's cloud future. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was called slow to catching on to the importance of the cloud. However, the new Microsoft, as it's commonly referred, is all in on the cloud.

Analysts may look toward investments in personnel, reorganization announcements, and marketing focus to determine the strategic areas for a company. As a technologist, I take a detailed look at the actual technology. Of the many different technologies in which Microsoft participates, I'll look at three different areas where Microsoft focused on cloud vs. their traditional Windows everywhere theme. Most of these sections, ironically, attempt to attract developers to Microsoft Azure cloud services.

1. Containers

Considering Hyper-V containers, Nano Server, and Docker, Microsoft's container strategy is wide-ranging. I talked to a multitude of vendors and data center managers over the past few months about containers. As an output of those conversations, I can count on one hand how many customers have deployed containers in production. Containers will eventually make their way into production, however, the strategy today is to attract developers.

SEE: Job description: Cloud engineer (Tech Pro Research)

Containers prove an extremely useful tool to the development process. Lighter and quicker than VMs, containers allow developers to create complex microservices applications on a device with the power of a laptop. Microsoft has bought Hyper-V container capabilities to Windows 10 and partnered with Docker to bring a familiar environment to developers currently working with containerized environments. The long game is to provide an on-ramp to Azure.

2. BASH on Windows

Speaking of a familiar developer environment, Linux is something Microsoft has done a complete 180-degree turn on in terms of their views toward it. When visiting the Azure application store, there are plenty of pre-built Linux templates and PaaS offerings, and Microsoft has gone even further than simply reselling Linux-based PaaS offerings. Developers find Linux-based development environments useful to leveraging many cloud services. When a .NET developer searches online for tutorials or advice on consuming these cloud services, many of the tips are written for Linux.

According to Microsoft, this is one of the primary reasons they created an entire Linux subsystem to allow the running of Ubuntu on Windows 10. The new subsystem allows developers to run the native Ubuntu BASH on Windows along with other Linux executables such as VI and the PERL compiler.

3. PowerShell

While not exactly a new innovation, PowerShell is a critical component of Microsoft's cloud strategy. While most cloud consumers use both Azure and AWS without regard for a tool such as PowerShell, it's essential to Windows 2016. DevOps tools are a serious requirement for managing cloud infrastructures.

When you get into web-scale sized deployments, developers and operators require powerful languages to administer hundreds or thousands of servers. AWS has proven that the AWS API is one of the most compelling attributes of the service.

Windows isn't natively friendly to being administered from the command-line. The object-oriented PowerShell language is the potential solution. Windows Server 2016 Nano will be a headless installation of Windows, and will require PowerShell to administer. It should allow Microsoft to close the gap on Linux for web-scale applications.

All roads lead to Azure

All of Microsoft's recent infrastructure initiatives point to making Azure easy to consume. Microsoft isn't forcing a single way to consume infrastructure, and is meeting developers on the developers' terms. I'm sure Microsoft will always support and push their .NET agenda, but the days of a Windows-only strategy are in the past.

What do you think?

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About Keith Townsend

Keith Townsend is a technology management consultant with more than 15 years of related experience designing, implementing, and managing data center technologies. His areas of expertise include virtualization, networking, and storage solutions for Fo...

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