With a slew of announcements surrounding its Windows Azure ecosystem on Tuesday, Microsoft has more clearly defined its cloud computing positioning. And that position is: Manage the bejeezus out of everything in the enterprise.
Microsoft's crack PR team may not have put it quite that way, but the focus of today's announcements, kicked off with a press webcast this morning, brought Microsoft's goals with its cloud offerings into sharp relief.
System Center 2012 Service Pack 1
The centerpiece of the announcements is the general availability of System Center 2012 Service Pack 1, which can now work with Windows Server 2012 to manage cloud apps and resources wherever those apps happen to be running. That means a datacenter, a hosted service provider's datacenter or out on Windows Azure, Microsoft's answer to Amazon Web Services and OpenStack-based cloud-hosting services.
The capability to shift virtual server instances to different locations using what Microsoft calls a "single pane of glass" is intriguing, and gets Microsoft into a place it really needs to be: a provider of cloud management services that starts to rival the capabilities of competing cloud/infrastructure providers.
This kind of management is available already for other cloud ecosystems, but typically customers have to use multiple vendors working with whatever cloud provider they favor. There are third-party vendors in the Azure space, too, but if anything was made clear today in today's press event, it's Microsoft's keen desire to provide a end-to-end solution for a customer's cloud solutions.
That won't come as any surprise, of course, but what might surprise enterprise CIOs is that if these services work as advertised, they would be a attractive tool for any company moving towards cloud computing and hesitant to work with multiple vendors and heterogeneous platforms.
Happy, Homogenous Days Are Here Again?
Microsoft is betting big on the fact that in the days before Linux and, well, Windows, many IT managers preferred homogeneous shops. Recall the days of UNIX servers and dumb terminals. Sure, you put all your eggs into fewer (or one) vendors' baskets, but you sure had less service and support headaches.
Microsoft is hoping those happy, homogeneous days are here again, betting that IT administrators who recognize the value of cloud and elastic computing will also want to keep things managed by a single set of vendor tools.
Redmond is so sure about this angle of attack in the enterprise and cloud marketplace, it's doubling down on centralized management with another general release: the latest version of Windows Intune, a cloud and device management tool that, with Service Center, enables deep management of Windows-based devices, as well as management of Android and iOS devices.
By folding the single-pane approach into Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) management, Microsoft is declaring that if you want one-stop-shopping for enterprise management, you'd better check out its product line.
It's not a bad bet - if the price is right and the services are indeed worthy. Microsoft has traditionally eschewed notions like keeping prices in check, but with a highly crowded cloud marketplace, it's unlikely it wouldn't at least try to remain competitive on prices. The only thing left will be how the tools function, and time will have to tell there.
The rest of the cloud marketplace has become a smorgasbord of services and tools, many of them very good, but also scattered across multiple vendors. While some IT vendors will prefer stitching together tools for the optimum solution, there will always be a market for end-to-end stacks like Microsoft announced today.
It's an alternative to which the rest of the cloud-computing ecosystem had better pay attention.
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