Cloud computing is the talk of the town this week. Oracle made major announcements about their cloud strategy. Hewlett-Packard announced it is working on a new offering called Enterprise Cloud Services – Virtual Private Cloud, which comes only a few weeks after the company announced a new public cloud service. Even Red Hat had cloud news this month; it took a step away from its promises to deliver a complete infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform with CloudForms and repositioned the offering as a management layer for IaaS. Not to be outdone, Microsoft announced its own long list of cloud news yesterday.
The company was scheduled to reveal news about its cloud platform, Azure, today, but Bill Laing, VP of Server and Cloud, apparently couldn’t wait. After years of treating Linux as a cancer, Microsoft is adding support for multiple Linux distributions to Windows Azure. This isn’t the only change Microsoft is making to Azure. Microsoft has broadened the focus of its cloud platform and admitted that enterprises don’t want to deploy everything to the public cloud. As of today, Azure is no longer a pure play platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering. Microsoft has added both infrastructure-as-a-service capabilities and hybrid cloud options. Azure new features Virtual Machines (VM), based Microsoft’s VHD format, allows users to move virtual hard drives between the cloud and on-premises servers. Microsoft is calling VHD an “open virtualization format,” which technically is true. However, practically few vendors outside of Microsoft support the VM format.
Azure users can select and provision persistent VMs with Windows, Ubuntu, CentOS, or the SUSE Linux using a pre-built image from the Microsoft Windows Azure Image Gallery or import their own Linux build. In addition, Azure can automatically update virtual machines with security patches, bug fixes and enhancements for the selected operating systems. Linux isn’t the only open source software featured on Azure.
The cloud platform already offered limited support for Java, PHP and several other non-Microsoft development technologies. Microsoft is more deeply integrating these technologies and attempting to woo developers from other cloud services by adding Python and enriching Azure’s SDK. The effort seems to be working. Lucas Carlson, Founder, AppFog, has worked with the new platform and said,
“Microsoft has fully realized the importance of open source and supporting REST APIs. This has created a brand new Azure that is like a breath of fresh air. Hybrid cloud is incredibly important to cloud adoption in the enterprise, and with AppFog’s Azure integration, this is an enabler for AppFog to go into hybrid cloud environments.”
In addition to the feature enhancements, the availability of Windows Azure is being expanded to 48 new countries over the next month, including Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, and Ukraine. This addition means Azure is now available in 89 countries. Microsoft is providing additional details on the Azure changes today at a “Meet Windows Azure” event that will be streamed live at 1PM PST.