Azure RevolutionPosted: February 14, 2012
I’ve now been working with Microsoft ISV and SI partners for three years. I’ve listened to their concerns about the cloud revolution and helped partners to operationalize their strategies. Even revolutions do not happen over night, but are rather multi-year. The Azure cloud revolution is shaping up to being no different in this sense.
Over the past three years I’ve seen a gradual growth in partner knowledge of Azure. Early on only a few early adopters even understood what Azure was. Over the past two years majority of partners have grown to see Azure as an Amazon EC2 competitor and as such a virtual hosting platform, with Windows and SQL pre-installed. Even today only a handful of partner truly understand the transformative nature of the cloud.
Last week I spoke with a Microsoft partner that has a development platform for Azure offering multi-vendor mobile device support. I said that my vision of Azure is services, rather than applications, seamlessly integrating and sharing data. For the end user the experience should be also seamless with a ‘metro’ style interface. As a user I should not be able to tell when my workflow goes from one service to another. This vision requires that the Azure ecosystem offers robust connectors to all the core service offerings and standardized models for integration. Even the leading development platforms lack these connector libraries. I also asked 400 ISVs if they had a data marketplace play; none did. This to me is very telling that most partners fail to understand the true potential of the cloud.
The transition to Azure often is phased. Azure does require recoding for multi-tenancy and SQL Azure. For larger ISVs with sizeable code bases, a rewrite can be a hefty capital cost. Some have opted for an interim hybrid model using virtual hosting, private cloud and public cloud; an ASP model. I recently studied Azure and Amazon pricing models. The common thought is that Amazon is cheaper. This actually NOT true. Cost of compute, bandwidth and storage are pretty much the same for both vendors. Where a difference exists is in relational database pricing. On Azure a partner would subscribe to Azure SQL, where as on Amazon a partner would have to also buy SQL and Server licenses. If the partner migrates their SQL 2008 R2, licenses that have already been depreciated, then this model appears to be very cost effective. However, if the ISV is running a multitenant configuration, they are legally a services provider and should be subscribing to a SPLA license, which is much more expensive than SQL Azure. Even running SQL 2008 R2 separate and only subscribing to compute, Azure makes more sense for compute because of the ecosystem potential it provides. There really is no reason for a partner not to move to Azure. Revolutions are messy and even this revolution will likely take a couple of more years yet to clean up.
As of today the Azure Application Marketplace had 555 results. Most of these applications are stand-a-lone CRM/ERP/Accounting solutions. The cloud is the ultimate ecosystem play and an ecosystem by definition is an ‘environment consisting of all the… components, in a particular area… , within which the… components… interact’. Ecosystem is about interaction and interaction requires integration. The clo9ud revolution is really the INTEGRATION REVOLUTION at its core. Virtual hosting centers have been around for years… nothing new and exiting about them. ISVs architecting their solutions should think about the space that they exist in and what other services their clients are using. We talk about ‘industry solution maps’. You need to see your solution in an industry solution map context to be an active part of the ecosystem… and that is the WORD!