The proposed mission for Windows Azure, the Microsoft entry in the cloud platform competition, is to provide an “open and flexible cloud platform that enables you to quickly build, deploy and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers”. Or, so heralds the official Microsoft promotional site.
Cloud hosting, in general terms, enables the end-user to easily access resources and applications from a virtual warehouse of computing storage, rather than being limited to the capabilities of a single server. From an economic standpoint, utilizing Microsoft Azure cloud technology enables individuals and businesses to pay only for the services and resources they actually use. Microsoft Azure looks to be on track to capitalize on name-brand recognition to go along with a platform that is relatively easy to use and one which offers a wide variety of features. Looking at the marketing angle, Windows Azure, as opposed to lesser-known cloud platforms, comes with a bit of a “built-in comfort factor” that stems from familiar user interfacing, and this could give Microsoft a competitive leg-up.
Another perceived advantage that the Microsoft Azure platform enjoys, along with Oracle and a few others, is that it is not limited to cloud-only applications, instead providing a single broader application that can be run on private clouds, on-premises and/or on a Windows Azure public cloud. Many companies only provide individualized service, such as a private-cloud-only or a public-cloud-only program, or products designed exclusively for on-premise use.
No matter the company or specialized application, one of the basic themes within cloud technology is improved up-time, with instant access to multiple servers. The point is valid, as well as being a good argument for cloud technology versus more limited platforms. Although resource access is improved dramatically “in the cloud”, connectivity still isn't foolproof; service can go “down” if the service between servers goes down. Overall, however, improved up-time is still trending toward even greater reliability as technology is refined and fine-tuned.
The economies of the Microsoft Azure cloud are favorable for many small and medium sized businesses, particularly since low start-up costs don't place a heavy burden on operational overhead. Systems are easy to navigate, so personnel can be trained easily, and most of the needed licensing is handled internally, avoiding confusion and legal pitfalls.
On the domestic side Microsoft Azure displays other nimble qualities, as priorities vary from what is considered essential in the workplace. For the average Sunday afternoon net-surfer, who might be sitting at home and playing online games while composing e-mail, balancing a budget, sharing on a social network and watching corny videos, one of the biggest “noticeable” improvement of Windows Azure over older platforms will be the improvement that isn't noticed at all. No more “internet traffic jams” that remind old-timers of the “bad old dial-up days”. Businesses and work-from-home individuals need optimal computer performance during all work hours, and eliminating the “jam” can favorably alter performance.
Multiple servers, vast virtual data storage and reduced downtime are among the systemic components that help form the Microsoft Azure cloud concept, and these are elements that affect the choices made by business and individual consumers. Technological advances can be made in small increments or they can involve longer leaps, and it often depends on the “personality” of a given company. Some companies aggressively strive for the cutting edge and they will achieve a different balance between the sizzle of hot new technology and functionality of a product than does a company with a more conservative approach. The latter description more aptly fits in with Windows Azure and the basic Microsoft view. Microsoft Azure is attuned to to its client base the way a “comfort food” restaurant is sensitive to the tastes of its diners.
Windows Azure is priced to compete, offers a sizable range of options, has performed well to-date and has a committed Microsoft at its back to rely on for support. Worries about a too-stodgy approach were alleviated somewhat by Microsoft statements to the effect that Windows Azure will support competitor's platforms and mobile devices and the company also addressed the concerns of many web-site programmers and developers with the announced support of ASP.NET.
Performance and reliability of Microsoft Azure will suit most consumer needs, but those seeking to find the absolute latest in technology may have to look further afield.
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