3 Reasons Why Microsoft's Azure Will Succeed

Microsoft will start testing its provisioning and billing systems for Azure in January and is slated to begin charging customers for using the platform on Feb. 1. Here are three reasons why we think Windows Azure won't be the next Windows Vista:

1. Linking The Cloud With Planet Earth: Microsoft is building Azure templates into the upcoming Visual Studio 2010 development toolset, which will make it easier to move code between cloud and non-cloud applications. Expanded virtual machine support in Azure will make it easier for businesses to leverage existing applications in the cloud. And through a project code-named Sydney, Microsoft is developing technology that securely connects on-premise applications with those running in public cloud environments.

What all this means is that Microsoft is making it relatively easy for customers to migrate from traditional on-premise software to cloud computing -- or straddle both worlds, as most businesses are likely to do for a long time. IT managers have consistently cited the need to link cloud and on-premise applications as one of their chief concerns about adopting cloud computing.

2. Fractured Competition: While it may seem like every IT vendor in the world has jumped on the cloud computing bandwagon, it's hard to say there's any dominant vendor in this space. Amazon is providing cloud computing infrastructure services and Google, while offering the Google App Engine, seems more focused on providing cloud computing applications. And a number of smaller companies such as LongJump and Caspio offer platform-as-a-service systems for developing cloud applications.

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Perhaps Salesforce.com and its Force.com cloud computing platform comes closest to what Microsoft is attempting to do with Windows Azure. Last week Salesforce said at its annual Dreamforce conference said that 135,000 applications have been built on Force.com.

Given that cloud computing seems to run counter to Microsoft's core client/server computing model, it's not surprising that some are skeptical about the vendor's cloud computing religious conversion. But right now there is no clear leader in the cloud computing development platform space and Microsoft seems to be as well positioned as anyone.

3. Data Management In The Cloud: While there's been a lot of focus on running applications in the cloud, a key to success for any cloud computing platform will be its data management capabilities. And Microsoft has been putting a lot of effort here with its SQL Azure database-as-a-service.

At last week's Professional Developer Conference Microsoft unveiled a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of an Azure subsystem code-named Dallas that Ray Ozzie, chief software architect, described as "an open catalog and marketplace for public and commercial data." That creates a uniform way of searching for data in the cloud and incorporating it into applications. And the new Microsoft Pinpoint, on both the Azure development portal and the Microsoft Partner Network, serves as an easy mechanism for accessing that data.