Windows Azure is offering up to 22 percent off the cost of memory-intensive compute instances across Windows, Linux and its "Cloud Services" offerings. The price drop is primarily for running applications such as Sharepoint, SQL Server, third-party databases, in-memory analytics and other enterprise applications.
The news is one of a host of new services launched today by Windows Azure that shines a light on a strategy that I have some questions about as it relates to what flexibility is truly offered for a company that hosts its own infrastructure.
With the news of the price drop, the Azure team also announced that Windows Server 2012 R2 allows customers to run their data centers in Virtual Machines and Cloud Services. The service is reflective of Microsoft's efforts to offer a cloud operating system that runs on Azure and a company's own data center.
Windows Server 2012 R2 is now generally available for customers to run in their own data centers and is available in the Windows Azure image gallery. The team promises up to 30 percent faster deployment times compared to Windows Server 2008 R2 images. The company is also making Windows Server 2012 R2 available as a guest operating system for web and worker roles as part of Windows Azure Cloud Service.
The Windows Azure team also made generally available the Windows Azure Pack, available as a download that allows customers to run on Windows Azure Technology within an organization's datacenter, an on-premises private cloud environment, or with one of Azure's service provider/hosting partners who run Windows Server.
Windows Azure Pack provides a management portal that has the same UI as Windows Azure Management Portal, which points to an aspect of the cloud service that Microsoft has been pushing. It is intended to allow apps and services to run in hosted environments just as they would within Windows Azure.
It's a question of whether companies really want to even manage their own data centers. All the signs point to companies shedding their infrastructure and leaving the management of all those machines to the people who really understand the complexities of running a digital factory.
The real opportunity seems to come with managed services providers that are offering ways to ease the complexity of running cloud services. For example, companies like Datapipe are helping customers manage deployments on Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Last week, the Azure team announced a partnership with Equinix for customers to plug into Azure. But the emphasis for the most part has been to promote companies like Accenture for integrating Windows Azure and building out a company's own cloud services. There are plenty of companies that want their own infrastructure but the question becomes what kind of advantage it truly provides. If it does mean the capability to offer on-demand, self-service capabilities then sure, that's awesome. But the IT overhead costs can be so considerable that it really has its most value for only the largest of organizations.
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