Microsoft Chases Amazon With Big Cloud Offerings

Microsoft headquarters cloud © Peteri shutterstock

Microsoft launches a US Government Cloud and upgrades Azure and the rest of the cloud family

Microsoft has updated its enterprise cloud services, with additions to Windows Azure, as well as new cloud-aware versions of products including Windows Server, System Center, Visual Studio, and SQL Server – and a new Windows Azure Government Cloud for the US.

Like every other infrastructure cloud provider, Microsoft is miles behind the giant presence of Amazon, but the announcement plays all the cards in its hand.

There are discounts to Azure pricing and a new Azure Pack for self-service cloud provisioning that runs on top of Windows Server and System Center. New versions of Microsoft’s server products and applications will arrive on 18 October and a deal with network provider Equinix will give direct access to the Azure cloud, but analysts say the offering may be too late and not open enough to disrupt Amazon’s leadership.

Microsoft’s cloud pitch

Satya Nadella Microsoft

Microsoft’s vice president of cloud Satya Nadella was hugely confident on the Microsoft blog: “I believe we will be at the core of, and in fact lead, the enterprise cloud era,” he said. “The enterprise move to the cloud is indeed going to be huge – we’re talking about a potential IT market of more than 2 trillion dollars – and that move is just getting started.”

“To be the leader in this next era of enterprise cloud you must: have best-in-class first-party SaaS applications on your cloud,” he said, as well as operating a “massive, global” public cloud, which supports third parties, and offers hybrid clouds and mobility.

The Microsoft Government Cloud is a close lookalike for the Amazon GovCloud, and the deal with Equinix for direct access looks very like Amazon’s DirectConnect.

The new software offerings, due on 18 October, include Windows Server 2012 R2, and System Center 2012 R2, as well as Visual Studio 2013, a new version of .Net (4.5.1), and a preview of SQL Server 2014.

The UK doesn’t have a direct Microsoft government cloud, but Microsoft has a deal with the heavily Microsoft-oriented cloud provider Outsourcery to deploy cloud services certified to the government’s IL3 specification.

Not open enough?

Analysts are frankly sceptical: “Microsoft is very late, but those wanting a Microsoft base would be well served to use Azure,” said analyst Clive Longbottom of QuoCirca. “I think the US government cloud could be important, as it may drive others to Azure,” he added, pointing out that any government services that go on Azure may pull other suppliers onto the platform.

However,  Microsoft’s presence in the market is still tiny, according to William Fellows, research vice president at 451 Research: “It was not even on the radar in 2012 [see 451 research’s graph below]. I still can’t see anyone catching Amazon anytime soon, even in combination with partners.”

“But if Amazon is Coke, then there are at least some other ‘colas’ on the market now, if not a Pepsi,” said Fellows. “With Verizon in play, IBM/SoftLayer, Google and Microsoft, the race is getting more interesting by the week.”

the451 cloud market share

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