TechEd and Windows Azure: Suddenly the Clouds Open....

Microsoft’s Azure Hybrid Cloud offering appears promising, especially for businesses struggling with the complication of Cloud deployment. 

Suddenly the clouds opened and angels sang….at least that was the sense I got at the TechEd Developer’s conference last week.

You see, one of the huge problems IT has been having is users breaking out their credit card and using it to get hosted services from non-compliant vendors for critical line projects. The IT-approved and certified services are simply too difficult to get and set up so the users just dance around them and go web shopping.

Well, Microsoft got IT’s attention when they launched their Azure Hybrid Cloud offering because it appears to not only be better certified than other services and more easily integrated, it is also easier to setup and use.

In fact one story I was told at the show was about a bunch of Linux folks working on a major collaborative project using this service and having it fully provisioned and running in under 15 minutes. I was also told I couldn’t write about it in detail because none of them wanted to get hate mail. But when hard-core Linux folks start to prefer a Microsoft service this becomes a “man bites dog” story and vastly more interesting.

The Service

Currently in beta mode, this service consists of Windows Azure Virtual Machines, Windows Azure Virtual Network, Windows Azure Web Sites, and – omg – that’s enough Azure already. It has a web front end, critical for a tool like this, and it covers a variety of popular tools like Word Press and a large number of platforms, including an impressive selection of Linux distributions. Not Red Hat, though they are trying to work out an agreement with them. (Red Hat and Microsoft haven’t historically been the best of buddies).

Whether it is setting up a web site or extending a premise resource into the cloud because of emergency capacity issues, setup and use is amazingly easy. I say that because I haven’t done this kind of work for years and I found I could figure out most things very quickly (guys don’t like to ask questions and we have really short attention spans at my age). I’ve actually seen games that were harder to set up and play.

Now the first ten instances are free, though these are shared so performance could be iffy and eventually there may be a minor charge for this entry service (that hasn’t been worked out yet). And you can easily provision for extra resources and services (with a fee) if you need more. But for small projects, the kind that employees are currently using credit cards for, this could be ideal and certainly worth checking out.

There is an interesting case study on the Azure-based Harry Potter site and if you are interested in security and compliance the details for that are available. Some of the audit and certification standards that have been met are ISO/IEC 27001:2005, and SSAE 16/ISAE 3402 Attestation, for example.

Wrapping Up: And Angels Sang

The positive reaction this service got was impressive, for a Microsoft event, it was almost as if the audience suddenly heard angels singing. As noted, this service is still in beta. But for a bunch of IT folks struggling to avoid major compliance problems associated with employees bypassing IT, the offering of an approved, secure, and easy to use service – that works with their Microsoft infrastructure – must have been like words from heaven.

Surprisingly enough, a bunch of folks were actually similarly excited about Windows 8 on tablets, which would address similar concerns about out of control and non-compliant platforms and services flowing into companies.

This may have been the most exciting TechEd in years, who knew? I guess sometimes Christmas comes in June.

Tags: cloud computing, Microsoft, Azure, TechEd

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