The inside view of Microsoft's cloud strategy

The project lead explains why the hypervisor is not Hyper-V, how multitenant apps are supported, and why Azure is not like Amazon's EC2

Microsoft this week launched its cloud computing environment, Windows Azure, which is the foundation of the Azure Services Platform for developing applications extending from the cloud to PCs, datacenters, phones, and the Web. Microsoft's goal is to let Windows developers transition from Windows client development to Windows cloud development, using familiar tools, both those from Microsoft and other sources such as Eclipse. Developers would continue to develop apps on their desktops, but the Azure platform would handle the app deployment in the cloud.

A key developer of the platform was Microsoft corporate vice president Amitabh Srivistava, who discussed the effort with InfoWorld Editor in Chief Eric Knorr and Editor at Large Paul Krill at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles last week.

So you would develop locally on your machine. The whole deployment phase is then automated onto the platform?

Yes. And the same bits that you have been developing on your machine, exactly the same bits get deployed to the cloud. Once you have developed and you have been testing on a development machine, you see it working and you say, "OK, looks pretty good, let's go try it on the real stuff." Then you don't have to compile again. And we provide a very effective, very distributed storage that consists of mostly things like blobs, tables, a management system, and a lot of computation all designed to be scalable and available.

It must have been at least 10 years ago when Microsoft had to change its strategy and go to the Internet, and you had Internet Explorer coming out of that. Is this cloud initiative as dramatic a change as that was?

A lot of these pieces are coming together as a coherent services strategy and now we can articulate it in a way and we can actually see how all of these pieces are going to evolve. Basically, I think that's why we can exactly say who's doing what and we can start looking at it end to end, in all directions to go back and say, "How does a customer solve this problem, what does it mean to write a service?"

Does this mean a diminishing of shrink-wrapped, boxed software? Are people going to be buying online? Deploying online?

I really don't think it's an either/or proposition. I see it more as an extension of the server to the cloud. And clearly yes, some things that are running on premises, on server, will move to the cloud. But on the other hand, you're also opening up new opportunities because a certain class of applications will be written where they'll be doing part of the things on premises and part of the things on cloud. People have some data they're not going to move to the cloud no matter what happens. They're going to keep it on premises. Certain functions are not going to go away. [And] there are clear advantages [that] the cloud brings. If you marry the two together, you're opening up a new class of applications. I think it's going to be an interesting dynamic and I think it's net-additive.

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