According to a 451 Research Vendor Window assessment, the battle for IaaS leadership has intensified even though Amazon Web Services (AWS) remains the clear front-runner. Respondents to the 451 vendor evaluations revealed that 57% of enterprise customers use AWS whereas Microsoft Azure is used by 42% of customers. AWS was cited as the most important customer in 35% of all cases, ahead of Microsoft Azure, which garnered 20% of votes in the same category. Rackspace earned the highest ratings for the IaaS vendor capable of fulfilling Guaranteed SLAs and was tied with AWS for its ability to fulfill customer needs. While AWS received high ratings with respect to Experience and Technical Innovation, Microsoft Azure, in contrast, was rated lower than most of its competitors with respect to Experience and Support for Open-Source Software. Meanwhile, in the private cloud market, the 451 Research Vendor Window Assessment found that VMware claims a presence in 70% of enterprises with its ESX and vCloud virtualization platforms. Nevertheless, the survey also found that more than 70% of VMware customers have deployed other solutions for private clouds such as OpenStack or Microsoft Cloud OS, for example.
Michelle Bailey, Senior Vice President, Digital Infrastructure and Data Strategy at the 451 Research Group, remarked on the significance of the findings as follows:
While the 2015 Vendor Window for IaaS shows Amazon Web Services as the clear leader based on multiple metrics, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace and VMware’s vCloud Air are becoming competitive challengers. As more mainstream customers move business-critical workloads to cloud environments, the decision criteria for evaluating potential vendors change relative to early cloud adopters, and in turn so do the vendors under consideration.
Here, Bailey notes how the IaaS assessment reveals the emergence of “competitive challengers” to the leadership role of Amazon Web Services as the criteria for IaaS vendor selection evolves in relation to the evolving maturity of cloud adoption within the enterprise. The bottom line here is that, even though Amazon Web Services remains the most widely used and, in many ways, respected vendor within the IaaS space, enterprises are increasingly reviewing alternative options to AWS, particularly as the space features an increasing number of robust options that can variously go toe to toe with AWS regarding attributes such as customer service and ability to support SLAs. More importantly, the battle for IaaS market share is likely to become even more competitive as the progressive maturity of Big Data technologies and analytics means that enterprises are likely to seek cloud platforms that can not only support, but also streamline and simplify the adoption of Hadoop and NoSQL. Regardless, exciting times are ahead for the cloud industry as IaaS vendors mature their product and service offerings in ways that give customers the confidence to select multiple vendors to minimize risks of vendor lock-in while concomitantly enriching their knowledge of the IaaS space by sampling the heterogeneity of offerings available on the market today.
In a blog post, Microsoft announced two new technologies related to containers in the form of Hyper-V containers and the Nano Server on April 8. Hyper-V containers represent an extension of Microsoft’s plans to support Docker containers on multiple operating systems and hypervisors. In October, Microsoft and Docker announced plans to bring the Docker engine to the Windows Server platform, roughly four months after Micosoft announced support for Docker on Linux VMs within the Microsoft Azure platform in June. Hyper-V containers provide an enhanced degree of security for containers by delivering a level of isolation characteristic of dedicated servers or VMs. The enhanced level of isolation specific to Hyper-V containers ensures that code within a container remains separate from the other containers and host operating system of the underlying infrastructure. Designed for the Hyper-V hypervisor, Hyper-V containers complement Windows Server Containers and can be deployed using the same development tools as those used for Windows Server Containers. Moreover, Hyper-V containers are inter-operable with Windows Server Containers to the extent that applications designed for Windows Server Containers can be deployed as Hyper-V containers without additional configuration or tweaks.
Meanwhile, Nano Servers represent a micro-installation of Windows Server that is optimized for the cloud and container technology. Nano Servers feature smaller server images, memory and networking infrastructures that render it an optimal infrastructure for container technology. Taken together, Microsoft’s announcement of Hyper-V containers and Nano Servers constitutes yet another illustration of Microsoft’s attempt to differentiate itself from other IaaS vendors by rolling out products that support and amplify the operational agility enabled by Docker technologies. Hyper-V containers, for example, promise to deliver enhanced levels of security for Docker containers and give users a container option for the Hyper-V hypervisor in addition to Windows Server Containers and Linux containers. The bottom line, here, is that Microsoft is responding to increased customer demand for Docker container technology by way of an expanding and increasingly nuanced catalogue of options for deploying containers on different operating systems and virtualization platforms.
Cloud monitoring leader Cloudyn today announced its support for the Microsoft Azure cloud. Cloudyn’s support of Azure means complements its existing support for Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and OpenStack, thereby rendering it compatible with an even wider range of hybrid cloud infrastructures. Cloudyn specializes in performance management across a variety of cloud infrastructures by means of a unified user interface. In addition to performance management, Cloudyn also delivers cost tracking and optimization services that allow customers to control costs by optimizing resource and infrastructure allocations across different infrastructures and applications. The following screenshot of Cloudyn’s management dashboard illustrates the cost-tracking functionality of the Cloudyn platform:
Cloudyn’s data visualization functionality provides customers with nuanced drill-downs of cost by entity, cost savings opportunities and trend analytics of cost over time. By supporting Microsoft Azure, Cloudyn provides customers with the ability to understand how an Azure deployment alters the cost and performance equation in a hybrid cloud infrastructure that might alternatively include an on-premise OpenStack deployment as well as use of Amazon Web Services. Cloudyn CEO Sharon Wagner commented on the significance of the company’s support for Azure as follows:
We’re thrilled to add support of Microsoft Azure to our set of cloud platforms. Our customers’ interests in Azure adoption have grown rapidly. From the onset, we’ve been committed to helping our customers ease into the multi-cloud model as well as successfully manage it. Now we’ll be able to further help them cut down on cloud spend while avoiding cloud sprawl.
In a phone interview with Cloud Computing Today, Wagner noted that all performance metrics collected from the cloud infrastructures that Cloudyn supports reside on the same table, giving Cloudyn the unique capability to perform cross-cloud performance and cost comparisons. Cloudyn’s ability to deliver rich and nuanced analytics for hybrid cloud deployments renders it a powerful tool for contemporary cloud deployments, the vast majority of which necessarily embrace some combination of private and public cloud environment. Today’s announcement of its support for Azure represents yet another important milestone for Cloudyn, particularly as it seeks to add even more cloud platforms to the list of infrastructures it supports for performance and cost analytics.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently announced the Azure Internet of Things Suite at Microsoft Convergence 2015 in Atlanta. The Azure IoT suite provides the capability to connect with devices and other things alongside the ability to acquire, analyze and visualize data generated from internet-of-things related devices. In addition to the ability to aggregate and analyze IoT data, the Azure IoT suite aims to deliver “finished applications” for use cases such as “remote monitoring, asset management, and predictive maintenance.” Azure IoT features Windows 10 for the Internet of Things as well as Azure Stream Analytics, a preview offering that offers the ability to ingest and analyze massive amounts of streaming data. The Azure IoT suite builds upon the Azure Intelligent Systems Service that Microsoft introduced in April 2014 to make “it easier for enterprises to securely connect, manage, capture and transform machine-generated data from Line of Business (LoB) assets, such as industry devices and sensors, regardless of OS platform.” Azure IoT represents the next step in the evolution of the Azure Intelligent Systems Service that elicited “overwhelming” demand from customers to the point where Microsoft decided to increase the quota of participants who had access to the preview release of the product. Specific details of the Azure IoT suite remain scant, at this stage, but we should expect Microsoft to release a more detailed elaboration of its integrated internet of things platform in the weeks to come.
Ford has announced that it will partner with Microsoft Azure to automate updates to automobile software such as its Sync 3 infotainment system as well as functionality that enables owners to check battery levels and remotely start, lock, unlock or locate their vehicles. As a result of the partnership with Azure, Ford vehicle owners with Sync entertainment and navigation systems will no longer need to take their cars to the dealership for periodic software upgrades, but can instead leverage the car’s ability to connect to a wireless network to download enhancements to Sync. The Azure-based Ford Service Delivery Network will launch this summer at no extra cost to end users. Use cases enabled by the partnership between Azure and Ford are illustrated below:
Despite Ford’s readiness to use long-time technology partner Microsoft for the purpose of leveraging a public cloud, the Dearborn-based automobile giant prefers to use on-premise infrastructures for more sensitive data such as odometer readings, engine-related system data and performance metrics that reveal details about the operation of the vehicle. Moreover, part of the reason Ford chose Microsoft was because of its willingness to support a hybrid cloud infrastructure marked by an integration between an on premise data center environment and a public cloud such as Azure. As reported in InformationWeek, Microsoft will also help Ford with the processing and analysis of data given the massive amounts of data that stand to be collected for its fleet of electric and non-electric vehicles. Ford’s Fusion electric vehicle, for example, creates 25 GB of data per hour and subsequently requires the application of pre-processing and filtering procedures to reduce the amount of data to a point that renders its aggregation manageable for reporting and analytics purposes. Ford’s larger decision to partner with Azure represents a growing industry trend within the automobile industry to use cloud-based technology to push software updates to vehicles and gather data for compliance and product development reasons that includes the likes of Hyundai and Tesla. The key challenge for Ford, and the automobile industry at large, of course, will hinge on its ability to acquire internet of things-related automobile data and subsequently perform real-time analytics to reduce recalls, fatalities and facilitate more profound enhancements in engineering-related research and development. Details of which Ford vehicles stand to benefit from Azure-powered software delivery this summer have yet to be disclosed.
Microsoft Corporation recently announced revenue of $26.5B for the quarter ending December 31, 2014. Devices and Consumer revenue constituted $12.9B while Commercial revenue, spanning cloud revenues, server products and Windows licensing grew 5% to $13.3B. Of the $26.5B in quarterly revenue, commercial cloud revenue grew to an annualized revenue run rate of $5.5B driven largely by sales of the cloud-based Office 365 product, Azure and Dynamics CRM Online. Office 365 subscribers increased to 9.2 million, search-based advertising revenue grew 23% and sales of Xbox consoles and phone-based Lumia units reached 6.6M and 10.5M respectively. Microsoft’s commercial cloud revenue projections of $5.5B indicate that its cloud revenues are increasingly competitive with Amazon, which reported revenue of $5.6B in the “Other” category for the most recent fiscal year, the vast majority of which belongs to Amazon Web Services.