Never before has the competition in the IaaS public cloud market been as ripe as it is now between Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.
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Microsoft today announced new features for its Azure public cloud, including adding support for new application container workloads, Internet of Things projects and new virtual machine types.
The timing of the company's AzureCon virtual event - exactly one week before Amazon Web Services kicks off its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas next week - cannot be overlooked. It basically felt like Microsoft was jumping up and down, pounding its chest before the focus of the IaaS cloud market turns squarely to AWS next week. But when taking a closer look at Azure, it’s got a compelling story.
More containers and other goodies
Perhaps the biggest news of the day from AzureCon, as Microsoft called the event, was the announcement of new support for containers on the public cloud. By the end of this year a preview or new functionality that supports the popular open source container management platform Mesosphere will be available on Azure.
Both Microsoft and Amazon, along with virtual every other major infrastructure vendor, have made bold moves in the past year to enable containerized applications to run on their platforms. Expect more news from Amazon on the topic of containers next week too.
Microsoft also announced the Azure IoT Suite that allows devices to dump “Internet of Things” data into Azure where it can be centrally stored and analytics tools can be run against it. Microsoft announced a new “N” family of virtual machines, powered by the graphical-intensive NVIDIA processors. And it added security features that allow a range of partner virtual security monitoring tools to work on top of Azure.
Azure’s catching up
Last year at AWS re:Invent Gartner analyst Kyle Hilgendorf said that Azure is on the heels of Amazon, but it’s catching up quickly. Tim Crawford, who advises CIOs for the firm AVOA says in the market, he’s seeing more and more customers looking to Azure. “Amazon won the market for web-scale folks and the startup world and they’ve sort of become the de facto standard for test and dev in the cloud,” Crawford says. “But when you talk to the mass of enterprises who have needs beyond just cloud infrastructure, I’ve seen a real progression by people taking a second look at Azure.”
One of the biggest drivers for Azure usage has been the company’s powerful suite of Office 365 productivity apps. Many times customers who sign on to use Microsoft’s SaaS offering will get credits to use Azure in their Enterprise Agreement, Crawford says. Customers get started using Azure and then find more use cases for it.
It’s turned Azure into a platform that’s good for businesses that want to host their IaaS in the same environment as their SaaS, Crawford says. AWS has a variety of third-party tools supported on its cloud through its marketplace, but its enterprise apps are not nearly as strong as Office 365. “Amazon will have its work cut out for it, there are viable alternatives coming up,” Crawford says.
Big-name customers like Wal-Mart, Alaska Airlines and ecommerce startup Jet all spoke lovingly about Azure as Microsoft shared the latest figures about the size of the company’s cloud.
The cloud battle is on. Stay tuned next week to see what AWS has to announce in response.