The Microsoft Azure Is An Amazing Cloud
The new Windows Azure, Microsoft’s ambitious cloud is a plethora of things – it is a well-rounded and full-fledged platform as a service (PaaS) for developers. But its infrastructure beneath that overlay is a massive pool of foundational computing and storage space for rent
CEO of Nasuni, which is a Natick, Massachusetts startup, Andres Rodriguez says that the infrastructure is fine indeed. Nasuni specializes in managing business customers’ storage in a secure way in whichever public cloud best suits their customers’ needs. He has checked out all of the public clouds has come to the conclusion that “Microsoft has a kick-ass cloud.”
As more and more companies seek to replicate the successful business model by Dropbox, that could come in handy. Dropbox is the Silicon Valley darling that has more than 45 million users of its cloud*based storage ever since it was founded in 2007.
Dropbox is a system which provides an easy to use, inexpensive way for users to place their digital documents, photos and any other digital paraphernalia in the cloud and be able to access their stuff from an device. Dropbox rides on Amazon’s S3 storage and puts everything in there. It is basically an on-ramp to a gigantic hard drive among the clouds.
Rodriguez sees the relationship between Dropbox and Amazon as something that resembles the relationship between a USB stick and a hard drive; What would seem like an incomprehensible block of storage is made tangible by the user-friendly frontend supplied by Dropbox.
The discussion has regained relevance because Google is said to be preparing to launch its own Dropbox killer. Rodriguez doesn’t think that Google has a chance here. But Microsoft? That’s a whole other story.
“Right now [all these companies] want to be the new Dropbox, but Microsoft is the only company I see as being able to do that,” Rodriquez explained earlier this Friday in an interview. Microsoft has the front-end knowledge to make the whole process easy. (Apart from Azure, Microsoft has another consumer storage system running: SkyDrive) and unlike many other tech companies it also has terrifying amounts of back-end storage in its data centers. So in other words, it has both the stick and the hard drive, it can do it all on its own.
Nasuni is in a good place to judge the comparative merits of these public cloud storage platforms: It calculates the reliability and the availability of all the major cloud storage suppliers and chooses the best cloud storage provider for its customers.
Then it goes on to monitoring the clouds storage performance, its availability for storage and also speed and lastly it checks the clouds reliability. If it detects problems, it will go as far as moving customers’ data to another cloud (non-disruptively of course).
The company released a report a few months ago that stated that Amazon and Microsoft were at the forefront in cloud computing, at the top of a very competitive heap of cloud storage providers. Amazon only slightly edged out Microsoft for the topmost position. Ever since then, Microsoft has been after Nasuni’s advice on how to improve its service, he said.
I find that this is typical of Microsoft which is, in my own opinion anyway, always at its best when it’s not in the power position and when it is leading the pack, it’s at its worst. Many would claim that Microsoft is exhausting most of its focus on its mobile phone operating system, where it is undoubtedly accepted as the underdog, and its cloud-storage system Azure. Where it actually leads the pack – as in Office and Windows – things tend to get a bit mediocre. Well that is what we saw with Office feature bloat and hey do you remember Vista? Yeah now you get it.
Microsoft Azure hasn’t gotten enough traction overall as was expected as a PaaS, he said, but the infrastructure is so stable and scalable that Microsoft can profit even in the extremely thin margins afforded by plain-old-but-very-important cloud storage.