2009 Predictions: Azure Disappoints

December 23, 2008 Appirio

#2 in our series of 2009 predictions

2008 Recap

We’re not sure exactly what there is to recap about Microsoft Azure in 2008, other than the launch event, which certainly generated a lot of buzz. 

A closer look by many  generated more skepticism. Phil Wainewright said it best: “Whereas real cloud vendors release working services in beta on the same day they announce them, Microsoft simply announces what it’s going to do a year or two off in the future….  Ray Ozzie confessed that ‘the maturity of the things that we’ve got on them as this point in time is limited. It will be a different story a year from now. But I wouldn’t want to hold it for another year. So, we’re getting in the game.’” 

2009 Prediction

So we’re keeping our expectations in check for Azure in 2009.  CNET doesn’t expect web-based Office on Azure until 2010. There are only a handful of applications (nearly all Microsoft built) being demonstrated on Azure….the next generation of Live Meeting is supposedly up next. 

Why the slow pace? Part of the explanation is certainly the scope and ambition of the Microsoft vision.  Microsoft has a history of being late to markets that it eventually dominates, and we certainly don’t want to under-estimate the power of the resources Microsoft has at its disposal. Ray Ozzie is a visionary, and he’s charted out an ambitious course that will take decades to fully realize.   

But we think there’s more to it than that.  The last 2 years have shown us how challenging it is to play in both the cloud and client-based worlds.  We’re written about the challenges SAP has faced building new business models without disrupting their core business. Microsoft will face the same challenges.  This tension between wanting to play in the cloud without damaging its cash cows is the reason that it has taken Microsoft so long to even start talking about Azure.

Given this conflict, we don’t expect much from Azure in 2009.  Microsoft will use it as a platform for some of its own services, but will face huge go-to-market conflict in rolling these out to customers.  Microsoft’s developer community will face the same conflicts, and will be unsure how to focus their
investments.
  The hundreds of companies that make their living hosting Microsoft Exchange servers have the most to lose—Exchange and Sharepoint are likely to be the first applications ported to Azure (exhibit A of the types of conflict Microsoft will encounter as they roll out Azure)
.

What it means for customers

The big news for customers out of Microsoft Azure is validation of the cloud computing model.  The entire IT industry is FINALLY unanimous in acknowledging that the future of enterprise computing lies in the cloud.  Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Oracle—all have now told their customers that they need to be thinking about cloud computing. 

So the real question for the enterprise is how to get started. That’s a question that we at Appirio love to help customers answer.  Unfortunately, the answer is probably NOT with Microsoft Azure.

What do you think?

Which of 
our predictions do you agree or disagree with? Please let us know by voting in our poll or commenting below.  And follow a rich dialog on these predictions hosted by Clint Boulton at eWeek.

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