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"The gaps that were in the initial Azure offering are getting filled, and rapidly," said Brust, at Blue Badge Insights. One area that he said will need work is better integration between Azure and Microsoft's upcoming Office 365 cloud applications, which are not built on the Azure platform.
One area where things might not be progressing so smoothly is Microsoft's effort to co-develop Azure appliances with Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Fujitsu. The idea is that the pre-configured hardware-software bundles will make it easier for solution providers and customers to assemble private cloud systems. Microsoft announced the appliances at its Worldwide Partner Conference last July, saying they would be available by year's end. But they have yet to make an appearance.
Microsoft has had some high-visibility Azure successes lately. On Feb. 1, the one-year anniversary of Azure's launch, T-Mobile USA said it chose Windows Azure and SQL Azure to develop its Family Room mobile application that lets families share photos and coordinate activities. Xerox announced that it had developed its Xerox Cloud Print cloud-based managed printing services for the Azure platform.
Still, many businesses today are looking for easy-to-implement SaaS applications (in the Salesforce.com mode) rather than more complex cloud platforms like Azure, said Evolve Technologies' Sobel. "Customers are not coming out and saying "I want Windows Azure.'"
Microsoft continues to expand adoption of Azure among its partner base. In early April, at the National Association of Broadcasters show Microsoft unveiled plans to create a partner ecosystem specifically to develop Azure-based solutions for the media and entertainment industry.
Software companies and ISVs are beginning to embrace Azure as well. OpenText recently bragged that its Metastorm M3 enterprise architecture and business process management application is the first Azure-based software in that category to be certified under the Powered by Microsoft Windows Azure program. And Acumatica has adapted its SaaS ERP and CRM applications to run on Azure -- beating out Microsoft's efforts to adapt its own Dynamics ERP and CRM apps for Azure.
"The Azure stuff is fast. We're impressed with how fast it is," said Greg Milliken, president of Motive Systems, a Dallas-based Microsoft gold ISV. At Convergence Motive was showing an Azure-native implementation of its M-Files document management software -- meaning the application was developed from scratch to run on Azure and wasn't just adapted for the cloud platform. "It takes the customer deployment to a simpler level," Milliken said of Azure.
Building applications and services on Azure could be "a great way to engage customers," Sobel said. His verdict: "I think Azure's success is going to be measured not by sales numbers, but by customer success stories."