In a recent interview with The Register, Scott Guthrie, VP of Windows Azure remarked on recently added features to the Azure platform that take it in the direction of feature parity with Amazon Web Services. Notable recent milestones for, and functionality additions to the Azure platform include the following:
•Skype now runs on the Azure platform.
•New storage for SkyDrive will be stored on the Azure platform.
•Xbox Live and Xbox One “heavily use” Azure on the backend.
•Enhanced global presence including availability in China.
•A scheduler service that enables developers to schedule tasks without relying on a virtual machine.
•The ability to read replicated data in the secondary, global storage site of your location by means of the “read-only secondaries” service.
•Authentication, security and access control for Office 365 is hosted by applications that reside on the Windows Azure platform.
•Developer features such as “Visual Studio online, continuous delivery, source control hosting, remote debugging, diagnostics features.”
•Capability to run MapReduce jobs and integrate analytics into applications by means of HDInsight service, which features enterprise grade Hadoop hosted on the Azure cloud.
Taken together, these enhancements illustrate that Azure is indeed progressing down a rapid development path that, if continued, will likely catapult it into second place, behind Amazon Web Services, in the IaaS and PaaS space, ahead of competitors such as the Google Compute Engine and IBM. That said, achievement of feature parity with Amazon Web Services is virtually (no pun intended) a pipe dream for Azure given the breathtaking range of features and functionality offered by the Amazon Web Services platform, many of which, such as the AWS support for Impala and Amazon Kinesis, represent advanced iterations on the AWS commitment to supporting Big Data in the cloud.
However, Azure can certainly match AWS feature for feature for the 10-20 most common set of use cases for enterprise deployments, and its recent news that everyday consumer applications such as Skype and SkyDrive leverage the Azure platform is likely to render customers increasingly comfortable with the reliability, scalability and performance of the platform at large, for starters. To illustrate its competitiveness with its Seattle-based competitor, Azure would do well to define the most common enterprise use cases for public and private cloud deployments and demonstrate the value of its offering with respect to those use cases by using head to head comparisons with the likes of Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, IBM and Google Compute Engine. Without the popular enterprise use case approach to IaaS comparisons, AWS is likely to carry the day in any exhaustive, feature by feature comparison against any other IaaS provider for the foreseeable future.