Windows Azure was noticeably absent. But why? A topic turned up on Quora, citing our post and wondering why the lack of adoption.
The topic has sparked a bit of discussion. The consensus: Azure is better suited for larger enterprise operations.
That does make sense to some degree. We'll just have to see by how much.The people who make up Azure are a smart group. Under Bob Muglia, a real push started to attract more developers. That became apparent at the Professional Developers Conference, which was not a huge event but did have a core group there developing on numerous platforms such as Windows 7, Windows Phone 7 and the Azure marketplaces. Muglia is leaving Microsoft so questions are out there but the structure is in place for his successor.
Further, the tablet market will continue to drive a startup community to Azure. And BizSpark is no wilting effort. The official Microsoft blog states some of the results for the program since the effort began in 2008:
Since then, about 35,000 startups from all over the world have enrolled in the program, which provides early-stage businesses with fast and easy access to software development tools and platforms as well as a network of 2,500 network partners - including venture capital firms, university incubators, consultants and angel investors - interested in helping startups grow.
Microsoft will also focus on synchronizing connected devices this year, which will be a driving feature as devices are optimized for users. That alone will help drive development. Our bet is that synchronization will be a driving factor in the sale of Windows Phone 7 and tablet devices.
Commenters on Quora have a different perspective. They state that Azure is just not the right choice for startups, citing better suitability for large enterprises, the costs and productivity differences between it and platforms such as Heroku, which actually runs on Amazon Web Services.
What Commenters Say About Why Azure is Better for the Fortune 500
Startups are disruptive. Microsoft caters to Fortune 500 companies. Using Azure means startups adopting one vendor as opposed to an open source community with large pools of available software engineers.
The costs are higher compared to platforms such as Heroku. It can cost at least $40 per month for each site a user sets up. To set up an app on Heroku is free.
It can take longer. One developer commented that for typical Web apps they are ten times more productive with Ruby on Rails than the Microsoft. Rails was built for the Web. Microsoft originally built its stack for the desktop.
Azure is a platform, which is a same reason that Google App Engine is not represented either. Amazon and Rackpace are infrastructure providers, which provide the flexibility to build your own stack, which gives far more flexibility than a platform, which at some point will pose limits to the developer.
On a final note, there are some praises for Windows Azure. Martin Wawrusch critiqued Azure but ended by saying that it is a great platform and he wholeheartedly recommends it. He even said that the SQL Azure engine is years ahead of the competition, serving as a good fit for backend processing for a startup. He does also say he would however not use it for any front end work in a startup environment.
There are still open questions about Azure. It's not ruled out as a platform. It has potential for considerable success. The question is its comparison to other offerings on Amazon or Rakspace. For now, those offerings are more popular and should continue to be so for at least the year ahead.