Microsoft unveiled its private cloud in a box today. Windows Azure Platform Alliance is a container system that plugs into an enterprise data center.
Microsoft is touting eBay as its showcase customer. That's a big name company. But is Microsoft's private cloud right for you?
Microsoft's strategy is to form partnerships with hardware providers. In the first wave this includes aliiances with Fujitsu, Dell and Hewlett-Packard. If you want a Microsoft private cloud you will have to go with one of these companies solutions. More partners are expected to be announced in the months ahead.
The company is using these partnerships as hardware alliances to house Microsoft's pre-configured systems. It's not entirely new news. It follows up on promises the company made several months ago. The overall strategy is to fit this private cloud into any ISP. That means customers may just be able to go to their local provider for a virtualized cloud environment. That's a bit off in the distance but it could mean a tiered service that scales up and down, depending on the needs of the client.
As part of its big show today at the Worldwide Partners Conference, Microsoft pointed to eBay as one of its first customers.
From the eBay ink blog:
"eBay will incorporate the Windows Azure platform appliance into two of its data centers. The goal being to further optimize its platform and achieve greater strategic agility and datacenter efficiency."
That doesn't tell us a whole lot. Microsoft says the environment provides a strong test environment for eBay. It can test apps on the platform to see how performance pans out. What's more interesting is what eBay VP of Technology, James Barrese has to say what cloud computing will do for eBay:
VMware Lacks Experience?
Bob Muglia of Microsoft made the point in his address today that VMware lacks the experience of building private cloud environments. Microsoft makes the claim that its experience in building a public cloud environment means it can carry a number of different insights that only cones when you build something yourself.
This may sound good but VMware also has considerable experience in hybrid and private cloud development. Customers are choosing VMware based on the company's experience in virtualization. It entered the game before the rush of the past few years.
VMware has to be pretty deeply involved into data center operations. Its job is more in keeping its position with the larger hardware providers, which it is doing in its partnerships with Cisco, EMC and others.
Customers need to weight the cost benefits of a private cloud environment with a public cloud service from the the likes of Amazon, which provides infrastructure for companies. Microsoft's private cloud means a capital expense that can be considerable.
Potential customers should consider, too, what Forrester's James Staten has to say:
"The key question for Forrester clients is whether this makes Windows Azure a more appealing cloud platform. PaaS offerings have seen lower enterprise interest and adoption thus far due to concerns about lock-in. Windows Azure isn't immune to this as there are unique APIs for leveraging this platform. But if you are a .Net shop or develop in .Net and Java and deploy to Windows Server, then you'll find what you are looking for here. Yes, it is possible to build an app for Azure and move it back and forth between the PaaS platform and Windows Server 2008. The real question is what do you want out of the Azure platform? If you simply want to test the functionality of an application destined for Windows Server 2008 in your own data center and are just looking for faster access to resources for this type of testing, Azure fits the bill. But more likely you want to run the application on Azure because you want to take advantage of its automatic scalability. For that, you have to write to its APIs. And you should."
The reality of what service to choose comes down to what fits with your company culture. Even though the cloud has its own level of security, a private cloud environment may make more sense for the more conservative enterprise.
it also doesn't mean that a customer can transition to a more public cloud. Amazon's IT department used virtualization to initially gets its infrastructure ready to for the cloud. That's a prudent approach to consider for any company making a significant change in its infrastructure.