Microsoft hosted an event today talking about the future of their cloud offerings. Overall, I was impressed by the immense breadth of Microsoft's cloud services; there really is something for every business, and I left believing their claim of the most 'complete' cloud.
Microsoft sees two other key players in their cloud market: Amazon and Google. Microsoft aims to distinguish itself from its two competitors with its ability to offer a hyper-scale, enterprise-grade, and hybrid cloud infrastructure. While Amazon or Google are competitive in some areas, such as hyper-scale solutions, no one does all three as well as Microsoft.
In fact, one of these areas, hybrid cloud infrastructure, is only offered as a solution by Microsoft; they are the only company that supports on premise servers. Using Azure, companies can connect every on-premises server they host (Storage, Backup, Disaster recovery, Identity, Networking, etc.) to the cloud.
In addition to the breadth of Microsoft's cloud, the company talked about their higher level cloud services, such as Machine Learning, and live streaming capabilities, which offer higher margins. They are also quite impressive -- for example, NBC encodes and streams live using Azure. I inquired about start-ups being able to afford this technology, but wasn't given a detailed response as pricing is not readily available. However, as there are startups that are finding business in setting up these services for larger corporations, I am assuming that the price a premium for now.
While Microsoft talked about their general current approach and future, they also announced specific updates and additions to their cloud. The first was the G series, the largest Virtual Machines in the public cloud that offers up to 32 CPU cores, 450 GB RAM, and 6.5 TB of local SSD storage. Microsoft also announced premium storage of up to 32 TB of storage per Virtual Machine, and 50,000+ IOPS (input/output operations per second) with under a millisecond of read latency. Furthering their hybrid solutions, Microsoft also announced Cloud Platform System to bring Azure to your datacenter. Lastly, they announced further Docker support in the form of CoreOS support on Azure.
"We love Linux"
This was iterated many times through the event. Azure supports five Linux distributions, which means they have iso images available on the Azure Marketplace and you can get one running on your Virtual Machine. CoreOS, the new addition, a container-focused distribution that supports Docker, a platform to build, ship, and run applications.
Actually, CoreOS requires a container format, which are similar to Virtual Machines, in that they promise a safe environment for your web application, but unlike VMs, they are application focused.
Talking to the CEO confirmed my impressions of CoreOS -- it is not the typical Linux distribution. It is not based on Debian (as Ubuntu is) or any other distribution, and neither is its philosophy. For one, they push updates automatically, and the users don't get a choice. They had patched the recent bash vulnerability in mere hours! If that scares you, they have 'Alpha' and 'Beta' tester programs to test out their updates before they hit stable. Typically servers like running very stable builds (you don't want your website to crash because of a bug!), so I was very surprised when he told me that their users were pretty split among the alpha and stable builds.
Second, they push best practices upon their developers. They are requiring container applications since they can ensure stability of APIs and the environment as they push updates. The aim of CoreOS is for you not to worry about it ever.
My impression of Microsoft's strategy on the cloud is Google's strategy in the consumer space. Both companies want you to use their services in any way possible, and enable you to injunction with pretty much anything (in different ways).
This is only a fraction of what was covered, and if you want the full details (including a lot of details on different companies such as Cloudera, strategies including Office 365, etc.), we highly recommend watching the event for yourself (here, or reading the transcript here), or reading more here and here. You can also read our live reporting for my impressions here.