Privatizing the Azure cloud
But does it really matter that Windows Server is the OS on which the applications will run? Doesn't the rise of Azure mean that those Windows Servers are all moving off premises, to be hosted in some gargantuan datacenter that's run by Microsoft? Doesn't that mean your company datacenter will be shut down, and you'll be out of a job?
Not necessarily. Cloud services hosted off premises by a cloud provider (the public cloud) is only one of the four cloud deployment models defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology's DRAFT Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations, released earlier this month. That document recognizes three additional cloud scenarios: the private cloud, the community cloud, and the hybrid cloud. A private cloud can be implemented on premises or the server side can be outsourced.
Last summer, Microsoft unveiled its Windows Azure Platform appliance, which can be used by organizations to run Azure as a private cloud. And that's where things could get exciting. The private cloud is, in the opinion of many, the datacenter of the future. In many ways, it offers the best of both worlds, taking advantage of the technologies of the cloud -- virtualization and automation for better scalability, cost savings, and flexibility -- while allowing organizations to maintain control for maximum security and reliability.
For a while, it seemed the industry viewed the private cloud simply as a transition technology, a "gateway drug" to get companies hooked on the convenience of the cloud and ease them into the public cloud. But now there seems to be a growing recognition that factors such as ISP trends doing away with unlimited data services (which have gained a strong foothold in the consumer space and might very well progress to the business side), along with security issues and concerns over recent cloud service outages, are making the public cloud look less attractive.
For many organizations, the trust just isn't there yet -- and they might never be confident to put all their eggs into the public cloud basket. However, those organizations do want the efficiency benefits that cloud computing has to offer.
If Microsoft can deliver cost-effective cloud solutions that give companies freedom of choice -- with cloud services hosted in their own datacenters, partner datacenters, or Microsoft's own datacenters -- this could make the company a major player in the coming migration from today's traditional datacenters to tomorrow's application-centric models. Indeed, far from killing Windows Server, Azure could be the driving force behind its rebirth, as a leaner and meaner OS that can span the public and private cloud sectors, running on top of the Windows Azure platform.
Before that happens, though, Microsoft needs to find a way to help IT pros, C level personnel, and other nondevelopers understand what Azure is and what it does. Demystifying the cloud components would go a long way toward addressing the fear surrounding cloud migration.
In addition, a sharper focus on their private cloud offerings would let people know that there are more options than they might have imagined and that the cloud is not just one big, public, one-size-fits-all solution they're being pushed into. The problem isn't with the technology; it's with the messaging.
What do you think? Does Azure have the potential to breathe new life into the Windows Server brand by giving it a new, more scalable, and more flexible foundation? Should Microsoft give more attention to their private cloud solutions, especially at this early stage in the cloud migration game? Is a lack of understanding about the cloud operating system and its relationship to the Windows Server we all know and love holding back the success of Microsoft's cloud efforts? Join in the discussion and let us know what you think.
Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 additional books on subjects such as the Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 MCSE exams, CompTIA Security+ exam, and TruSecure's ICSA certification.