Microsoft Cuts Azure IaaS and Storage Prices While Emphasizing Quality And Innovation

At its Build Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft joined Google and Amazon Web Services in slashing IaaS and storage prices by announcing price cuts of up to 27-35% on compute services, and 44-65% on storage. Additionally, Microsoft revealed details of “Basic” VM instances that lack the load balancing and auto-scaling functionality that comes with the Standard instances. Price cuts were deepest for “Memory-Intensive” virtual machines and ranged from 35% for select Linux machines, and 27% for Windows-based machines. Microsoft also announced a new redundancy storage option branded Zone Redundant Storage (ZRS) that allows customers to store three copies of their data across “multiple facilities” which may be located either within the same region or across different regions. Zone Redundant Storage provides customers with an alternative redundancy option to the currently available Geo Redundant Storage (GRS) choice which enables customers to store data in regions “hundreds of miles apart” marked by 3 copies of their data in each region. Zone Redundant Storage will be 37.5% lower than Geo Redundant Storage in price. Notable about Microsoft’s announcements of Azure price reductions was its concomitant emphasis on quality and innovation in the cloud computing space:

While price is important, and something that will continue to grab headlines, there are three key factors at play in cloud computing: innovation, price, and quality. Innovation and quality will prove far more important than commoditization of compute and storage. Vendors will ultimately extol their track records for building and running services far more than their prices and SLAs.

Microsoft will continue to focus on bringing our customers a world-class service with an unrivaled user experience. This means best-in-class value while still providing the most complete cloud experience on the market. It means massive investments in cutting-edge infrastructure and world-class R&D. It means continuing to grow our developer and partner ecosystems. Simply put, it means devoting the bulk of our efforts to delivering innovation and a quality experience for our customers, developers, and partners.

With cloud guru Satya Nadella now at the helm of Microsoft, the industry should expect Microsoft to hold good on the promise made by Steve Martin, General Manager of Windows Azure, in his blog post regarding the devotion of “the bulk of our [Microsoft’s] efforts to delivering innovation and a quality experience for our customers.” All this suggests that, what had previously been a two horse race between Amazon Web Services and Google has now, within a matter of days, morphed into a three horse race that prominently features Microsoft and its renewed commitment to cloud and mobile technologies under Nadella as evinced by Microsoft’s release of Office on the iPad. Without question, Microsoft’s experience serving enterprise customers exceeds that of Google by far, but its ability to innovate in the cloud space with the frequency and depth of Amazon Web Services and Google remains to be seen.

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EMC’s Pivotal One Attempts To Bring IT Infrastructures Of Facebook, Google and Amazon Web Services To Enterprise

This week, EMC and its subsidiary VMware revealed details of the vision behind Pivotal, its spin-off company financed in part by $105 million in capital from GE. In a webcast announcing the launch of Pivotal on Wednesday, Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz, formerly CEO of VMware from 2008 to 2012, remarked that Pivotal attempts to bring to enterprises the technology platforms that have allowed internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Amazon Web Services to efficiently operate IT infrastructures on a massive scale while concurrently demonstrating cost and performance efficiencies in application development and data analytics.

Referring specifically to Facebook, Google and Amazon Web Services, Maritz elaborated on the strengths of their IT infrastructure as follows:

If you look at the way they do IT, it is significantly different than the way enterprises do IT. Specifically, they are good at storing large amounts of data and drawing information from it in a cost-effective manner. They can develop applications very quickly. And they are good at automating routines. They used these three capabilities together to introduce new experiences and business processes that have yielded — depended on how you want to count it — a trillion dollars in market value.

According to Maritz, the internet giants are a cut above everyone else with respect to data storage, data analytics, application development and automation. Enterprises, in contrast, leverage comparatively archaic IT infrastructures marked by on premise data centers and attempts to migrate to the cloud in conjunction with meager data analytics capability and poor or non-existent IT automation and orchestration processes. As a result, the enterprise market represents an opportunity to deploy technology platforms that allow for efficient storage, data integration across disparate data sources and interactive applications with real-time responses to incoming data as Maritz notes below:

It is clear that there is a widespread need emerging for new solutions that allow customers to drive new business value by cost-effectively reasoning over large datasets, ingesting information that is rapidly arriving from multiple sources, writing applications that allow real-time reactions, and doing all of this in a cloud-independent or portable manner. The need for these solutions can be found across a wide range of industries and it is our belief that these solutions will drive the need for new platforms. Pivotal aims to be a leading provider of such a platform. We are honored to work with GE, as they seek to drive new business value in the age of the Industrial Internet.

More specifically, Pivotal will provide a platform as a service infrastructure called Pivotal One that brings the capabilities currently enjoyed by the likes of Facebook and Google to enterprises in ways that allow them to continue their transition to cloud-based IT infrastructures while concurrently enjoying all of the benefits of advanced storage, analytics and agile application development. In other words, Pivotal One marks the confluence of Big Data, Cloud, Analytics and Application Development in a bold play to commoditize the IT capabilities held by a handful of internet giants and render them available to the enterprise through a PaaS platform.

Pivotal One’s key components include the following:

Pivotal Data Fabric
A platform for data storage and analytics based on Pivotal HD, which features an enterprise-grade distribution of Apache Hadoop in addition to Pivotal HD’s HAWQ analytics platform.

Pivotal Cloud and Application Platform
An application development framework for Java for the enterprise based on Cloud Foundry and Spring.

Pivotal Expert Services
Professional services for agile application development and data analytics.

Open Source Support
Active support of open source projects such as but not limited to Spring, Cloud Foundry, RabbitMQ™, Redis, OpenChorus™.

Pivotal currently claims Groupon, EMI, and Salesforce.com among its customer base. The company already has 1250 employees and, given GE’s financing and interests, is poised to take a leadership role in the industrial internet space whereby objects such as automobiles, washers, dryers and other appliances deliver real-time data to a circuit of analytic dashboards that iteratively provide feedback, automation and control. Pivotal One also represents a nascent trend within the Platform as a Service industry whereby PaaS is increasingly evolving into an “everything as a service” platform that sits atop various IaaS infrastructures. For example, CumuLogic recently announced news of a platform that allows customers to build Amazon Web Services-like infrastructures marked by suites of IaaS, Big Data, PaaS and application development infrastructures on top of private clouds behind their enterprise firewall. EMC’s Pivotal One is expected to be generally available by the end of 2013.