PDC 2008: Day 1 Keynote

October 28th, 2008

Today is the first day of Microsoft PDC. As usual, the weather in Los Angeles is hot and bored and the traffic of Los Angeles is packed and, bored. The first thing in the morning is the keynote. Ray Ozzie announced the cloud computing platform of Microsoft, Windows Azure. You may find it confusing that Microsoft already had some offerings like Windows Live, and what is this Azure for? Well, this is the real “platform”, so to speak. The business model of Azure is subscription-based: Microsoft offers a cloud platform for subscribers to publish their web services. In a word, Microsoft offers all infrastructures, including data center service (hardware, network, maintainence) and computation platform/services (e.g. web, SQL) so that subscribers can publish their web applications. It operates just like a outlet: Microsoft is the property owner, and you lease a space to do your business. This is the most popular strategy that we could found among software companies: stickiness. It keeps the customer on board and make it hard about jumping ships 🙂

As usual, Microsoft offerings all share similar characteristics: they claim to work with existing offerings seamlessly (e.g. Active Directory); they use Visual Studio for development; and, they look very cool and cripsy in the demo. Windows Azure currently contains four base services, which are identity services that integrates with AD, Dynamics CRM, SQL, and SharePoint. Apparently, the Azure is targeting at replacing the business solutions currently in use within enterprises, and it hopes to migrate these solutions onto Microsoft clouds. There are several demos provided during the keynote, however, it’s way too early to tell if Azure will take off based on these puppy shows 🙂 One thing for sure that Azure is not a simple idea to move things like Word or Excel onto the cloud. Microsoft is very ambitious about replicating its own success of Windows; this time PC hardware is replaced with cloud network and data centers, and desktop Windows is replaced by Windows Azure cloud OS.

The audiences of Azure are mainly customers that want to be Web-enabled/empowered without the hassle of data center/IT management. For example, start-ups or companies that does not treat IT as their core business (e.g. Coca-Cola). Startups that lacks capital to build data centers could utilize Microsoft services with confidence in mind that Ray Ozzie promised of competitive pricing. There are other big-names on the market who have similar business models, however, it is worth keeping an eye on the competition when Microsoft jumps into the arena. Microsoft is famous for its rich development eco-environment and now also is showing cards of price wars. As Ray Ozzie mentioned, Microsoft is betting its own future on the Azure platform. It is critical for the monotholic to repeat its own success again in the post-Bill-G era, and we shall be eyewitting the results very soon.

Update: My friends pointed out that Azure is very similar to Amazon Web Services 😀

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