Once in a while, I check my Windows Azure bill to see if I’m not overspending, so this morning, while satisfiedly flipping through my spending, I saw the “preview features” button. Thinking “Oh yeah, there were new features available in preview. Let’s play!” I clicked on it, revealing the new features Windows Azure Backup and Hyper-V Recovery Manager.
Being a developer myself by nature, I have the tendency to stay away from everything that remotely looks like IT-Pro stuff, but, after a brief moment of disappointment, these new features intrigued me. Besides being pretty cool features, they are, however, very different types of components than I am used to in previous preview releases and, in my opinion, signify a shift in focus Windows Azure has taken in the last few months.
Developers and IT-Pro
In the past years Windows Azure was PaaS oriented and a developer’s playground. These developers were literally pampered with all sorts of new play things, like easier ways to let mobile devices communicate with Windows Azure Mobile Services, to encode media files with Windows Azure Media Services, to quickly create websites with Windows Azure Websites and to crunch unstructured and semi-structured data with HDInsights. The trend that I’m seeing now is that this will change slightly.
The GA release of IaaS, earlier this April and the reduction in pricing for virtual machines and virtual networks – together with new components like Windows Azure Backup and Hyper-V Recovery Manager – gave way for a more IaaS based Azure. In yesterday’s blog “Windows Azure: Announcing New Dev/Test Offering, BizTalk Services, SSL Support with Web Sites, AD Improvements, Per Minute Billing“, Scott Guthrie announced new improvements and features for Windows Azure, targeting mostly IaaS and price reductions. All these changes and scenario’s including virtual machines in one way or another, are narrowing the gap between on premise networks and systems and cloud networks and with that it’s increasingly drawing IT departments into Windows Azure.
The shift in focus of Windows Azure
In the past year, Azure has come at the point where – following the diffusion of innovations theory – the innovators (mostly developers) meet up with the early-adopters, now including IT-Pro’s. But who we really want to reach is the majority where most of our customers reside. The influence IT departments have in the adoption of new technology is still decisive: customers still rely on their IT departments to adopt new technology. In reaching the majority, we will see that it will be essential to include IT-Pro in our cloud propositions.
In the next year, I think, we will see much more IaaS, tools to make IT-Pro life easier, SaaS and Hybrid Cloud oriented solutions to facilitate the adoption of Windows Azure in the early majority group. Developers will have to face the fact that the will no longer be the (only) driving force behind cloud and IT-Pro’s will have to embrace it with all the marvels that come with it. With that realized, Microsoft will create enough momentum to reach the majority group with a mainstream product.