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I have written about cloud computing and specifically Azure Services Platform several times in the past. As we approach the market release of Azure Services Platform (Microsoft’s Windows cloud platform as a service) I thought it might be a good time to step back and write about the business value of cloud computing.
Why Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is the new computing platform shift. The cloud is really just a metaphor for the Internet and is an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it runs on. It is a style of computing in which users (and developers) access technology-enabled services from the Internet without the knowledge of, or control over the technology infrastructure that supports these services. Its built on technology, but it really comes down to a new operational model (more about that below).
Enterprises are interested in Cloud computing because it comes with several potential benefits. The Pay-As-You-Use consumption model can now be applied to IT – to both the hardware (IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service) and, perhaps even more interestingly, to the business applications themselves(SaaS – Software as a Service & PaaS – Platform as a Service). Cloud computing transfers the traditional capital expenditure (CapEx) model common in data centers today to an operational expenditure (OpEx) model. Cloud Services like Azure Services Platform and Microsoft Online Services allow CIOs and CFOs to control costs more effectively through these cloud computing service offerings.
Additionally, for business software ISVs (Independent Software Vendor), Cloud computing is a potential new distribution channel for their applications. Building business software for the cloud allows them to hook into new business models, like subscription, transaction or even ad-based revenue models. It is clear that the concept of cloud computing is gaining traction and provides unique benefits. The flexibility of an access-anywhere, highly scalable, pay-as-you-go computing model has benefits for both vendors and clients.
With the Azure Services Platform, businesses are enabled to develop and deploy critical and non-critical applications with a higher performance/price ratio by running them on Microsoft’s platform data centers on a pay–as-you-go basis. Whether you are building new applications, augmenting / cloud enabling existing systems, or connecting with trading partners, you can take advantage of the Azure Services Platform to do it quickly, inexpensively, and across the Web and a range of connected devices. For ISVs, they can take advantage of the Azure Services Platform to deliver software as a service without having to maintain data centers or build new capabilities on existing investments in on-premises applications, while leveraging the same Microsoft development tools and technologies they are familiar with.
CFOs will care about Cloud Computing and Azure Services Platform.
Enterprises have grown increasingly comfortable with Pay-As-You-Use methods of consuming business and computer services. Decisions to go this route are often made (or greatly influenced) by the CFO, not the CIO, and are largely based on cost control and the ability to translate CapEx into OpEx that look better on a balance sheet.
The ability to pay for services based on usage, and for the provision of those services to be very scalable (‘elastic’) so as to increase and decrease with that usage, ensures minimal waste and redundancy. Also, the ability to scale in support of new product and service offerings or geographic expansion provides “cash-flow-friendly” ways to increase resource availability. This ability to commission additional capacity without significant capital outlay is particularly attractive to CFOs and especially in difficult economic conditions where upfront funding is harder to obtain.
The ability to apply Cloud economics to core enterprise applications provides new ways for CFOs and CIOs to optimize and boost the cost efficiency of IT service delivery.
Cloud Computing is an Operational Model
What makes cloud computing cloud computing is the fact that the physical resources used are operated to deliver abstracted IT resources “on-demand,” at scale, and usually in a multi-tenant environment. It is how you use the technologies involved that matters most. For the most part, cloud computing uses the same operating systems, management software, middleware, databases, server platforms, network cabling, storage arrays, and so on, that we have become familiar with in enterprise IT. Sure, Azure Services Platform, Google App Engine, Amazon EC2, and others, have different technologies and IP implemented, but in the end, its not significantly different than what enterprise IT is familiar with. Its the scale and elasticity, and the pay–as-you-go model that makes the difference. The combination of on-demand, at scale, in a multi-tenant infrastructure is the reason why cloud computing is disruptive today, rather than just another technology fad!
Azure Services Platform
Microsoft’s Azure Services Platform is an internet-scale cloud services platform hosted in Microsoft data centers, which provides an operating system and a set of developer services that can be used individually or together. Azure’s flexible and interoperable platform can be used to build new applications to run from the cloud or enhance existing applications with cloud-based capabilities. Azure offers a range of flexibility, control, and is an affordable solution for running Web-scale applications. The services reduce tedious and expensive infrastructure management and planning and are built with security and reliability in mind, along with the option of a pay-as-you-go model.
You can learn more here.
The Azure Services Platform is a key part of Microsoft’s Services Platform. Here’s the first of a comprehensive set of HDI’s (“How Do I …?”) on the entire Azure Services Platform. See my previous Azure and Cloud related posts here for background.
Here are some of the HDI’s you will find there:
Visit the Azure Services Platform Videos site on MSDN and subscribe so that you can be notified when new HDIs are posted!
Yesterday, Microsoft announced the release (previously in beta) of Exchange Online and SharePoint Online.
You can learn more, buy or try the new services at Microsoft Online Services site. As part of the Microsoft Online Services product family, Exchange Online and SharePoint Online are available separately or as a suite together with Office Live Meeting for conferencing, Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services and Microsoft Office Communications Online for instant messaging and presence.
There has been a tremendous amount of interest and adoption of Microsoft Online Services. In just the past year, Microsoft has sold more than a half million seats for Microsoft Online Services. To help businesses plan, deploy and operate the services, Microsoft is releasing new Microsoft Solution Accelerators for Microsoft Online Services. These include new automated tools and guidance, such as the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit, the Infrastructure Planning and Design Guide and the Microsoft Operations Framework Companion Guide. More information about Microsoft Solution Accelerators for Microsoft Online Services can be found here.
This is another exciting announcement as part of our Software + Services strategy, where Microsoft Online Services will continue to make available “finished services” on our Windows Azure Services Platform.
Today, Microsoft announced a new program and suite of hosted online services. The new service offerings include hosted Exchange, SharePoint, Communication Server and Dynamics CRM – all hosted by Microsoft as part of the new online services platform, and a key component of our Software plus Services initiative.
The “Deskless Worker Suite” plan starts at $3 per user per month, and includes web-based access to an Exchange mailbox through Outlook Web Access Lite along with read-only SharePoint access. At the full service plan, which starts at $15 per month, it includes full featured hosted versions of Exchange, SharePoint, Communication Server, live meeting and more. The capabilities of the standard service plan at $15 per user per month are similar to those of the standard editions of each of these applications.
Learn more about Microsoft Online Services here.