With my job I end up doing some travel and with that comes the fun of meeting new people, hearing new stories, and traveling new places (possible). My last trip was to the east coast covering New York and Florida and it got me connected with some interesting folks. Waiting at the airport for our flight which eventually took off the next day (12 hours of mechanical trouble), I met some folks from cloud business’. One was a Google advocate and the other Amazon. With me being in the Microsoft world it was a perfect mix of expertise. By the time we were three drinks in, we laid down all aspects of cloud Iaas, Paas, and Saas. There was no winner (you certainly don’t want one in a bar) at the end but I like to think all of us came out wiser than before.
This made me think how little people know about Microsoft’s Cloud platform Azure. I am always amazed when people refer to Azure as only Infrastructure-as-a-service (Iaas). What many don’t know is that Azure has a wide variety of features in its Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering and Software-as-a-service. In fact Microsoft was one of two vendors described as leaders in Gartner’s application PaaS (which it calls aPaaS) Magic Quadrant. Azure as PaaS allows creation of scalable applications and services, supports multi-tier scenarios and automated deployments. As for SaaS, what would be a better example than Office 365?!
So here is my attempt to share my experience and knowledge about Microsoft Azure in the hopes that it will help you to make an informed decisions when selecting a cloud platform that best fits your business. In order to keep it engaging I will break this blog post in two parts. The first one being more strategic and second one, tactical, involving Azure services and features.
In this Part 1 of 2 let’s start with the least common denominator among all cloud platforms – Storage.
Now lately you might have experienced an influx of news around increased cloud storage and reduced costs. Storage wars between the three companies Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are at its best. Here is the latest cost analysis among these three leaders (Note: this is up to date as of this post publication).
100 GB Cost
100 GB Cost
|Microsoft OneDrive||15 GB||$1.99/month||$3.99/month - 200 GB (1 TB is available with OneDrive for Business)
|Google Drive||15 GB||$1.99/month||$9.99/month - 1 TB
|Amazon Cloud||5 GB||$4.17/month||$41.67/month - 1 TB
|Winner||Microsoft & Google||Microsoft & Google||N/A - similar plans do not exist in OneDrive
Now let’s take a peek at the enterprise storage pricing comparison. This is not comprehensive as there are too many factors in play and pricing will depend on egress, redundancy selected etc. and hence no clear winner
|Google Cloud Storage||$26/month||$1,300/month||$2,600/month
Iaas Magic Quadrant
During our talks we all agreed on one aspect – Amazon is the gorilla in the cloud business based on sheer revenue, but looking at statistics Microsoft is closing the gap at a rapid pace. In the May 2014 Gartner Magic Quadrant even though Amazon leads the space an interesting point to note (and one which isn’t easy to digest by the tech industry) is the inroads Microsoft has been making in strategic accounts. It is quite evident that Microsoft Azure IaaS is catching Amazon AWS in terms of functionality, automation and innovation. With late adopters Microsoft has been gaining traction and even though prospects consider their existing incumbent vendors, but this quadrant proves that Microsoft is overwhelmingly the top contender in that market.
With the recent acquisition of InMage (which provides continuous data protection) Microsoft took another step towards business continuity solutions in the cloud. In a recent email Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO outlined his mission statement to the employees. He stated his goals and shared his vision for Microsoft in this 3,100 word email where he put forth the company as mobile first and cloud first. Staying true to his roots he invested in acquiring InMage, focusing on data protection and back up retention. Over time InMage will be rolled into the Microsoft Azure Site Recovery service to add scale to the company’s newly added disaster recovery and business continuity offering. Last month Microsoft also launched the StorSimple appliances which provides storage as a tier by integrating cloud services to on-premises storage.
Microsoft recently launched preview of a new service called Azure Machine Learning. It is a public cloud-based service that lets developers embed predictive analytics into their applications. Think of the value this can provide you when you combine this with customer CRM and marketing systems, generating scores predicting customer behavior. Another great new upcoming feature in Office 365 is Delve (formerly Oslo) and if you really put 2 and 2 together you’ll realize that horsepower behind Delve is nothing else but Azure Machine learning.
Azure recently announced additional enhancements that honor their commitments to security and increased transparency. This includes stronger cryptography, including enhancements to the default Transport Layer Security (TLS)/Secure Socket Layer (SSL) cipher suites and enabling Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS). PFS uses a different encryption key for every connection, making it more difficult for attackers to decrypt connections. This encryption work builds on the existing protections already in many Microsoft products and services, such as Microsoft Office 365, Skype and OneDrive. Customer content moving between customers and Microsoft will be encrypted by default. All of the key platforms, productivity and communications services will encrypt customer content as it moves between Microsoft data centers. Data traveling between services (for e.g. one email provider to another) is protected and customer content stored in Azure is encrypted (there are also tools for developers to allow them to easily protect data).
I sincerely hope this provides you with valuable insights and enough to get you excited about Microsoft Azure. In case it does not then don’t forget to check back in a few days for Part 2 of this series which will contain information on more in-depth features of Azure like media services, mobile devices, Azure web sites, Azure files and more.