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Microsoft's PowerApps spices up its secret cloud sauce

With its new method for enabling enterprise apps, Microsoft adds a key ingredient to its SaaS strategy.

Microsoft PowerApps Windows 10
Credit: Microsoft

In another rapid catch-up move to the cloud, Microsoft announced a new shortcut method to enable mobile use of line-of-business apps, PowerApps — not only on iOS and Android, but of course, Windows 10 and Windows 10 Phone. It’s about turning apps—especially SaaS apps—into diversely mobile apps.

Note that Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store, among others, carry the client-side of these apps, but the back-end, server geometry of these apps has been dominated largely by a superfluity of cloud-based back ends, some on Apache/Tomcat, Nginx, in combinations with an increasing variety of relational and non-relational database infrastructure. A commonality: a wild west of server back-end structures.

There is no big secret that Microsoft’s Active Directory infrastructure permeates the business world. There have been rivals, a long list of competitors, but none of them won the key authentication clientele that Microsoft has. This is not the secret sauce. 

What is this secret sauce, which all of the competition assiduously avoids? It’s Azure Federated Directory Services, and therefore Active Directory services. AD-in-the-cloud is a key ingredient missing from many of Microsoft’s SaaS competitor portfolios. Microsoft has carefully timed the announcement of PowerApps, partly because Windows 10 arrived without its Group Policy Objects (GPO) icing. GPO is not quite, but almost mandatory for organizations requiring regulatory and audit compliance. This is also: PreviewWare.

You need a scorecard to keep up. Now the various parts are assembled, if only at the preview level, a SaaS recipe checklist becomes complete:

  • Realistic Active Directory Services infrastructure on Azure – check
  • Multi-provenance international Azure data centers – check
  • Easy way to get developers out of games and into business apps – check
  • Cross-platform control, server room to mobiles – check
  • Huge desire to rival Salesforce and Service Now – check
  • No distractions by content providers – check
  • Hardware platform control – check
  • InTune MDM control for Windows, iOS, and Android – check
  • Systems Center in the cloud via Active Directory Federation – check
  • Office365 monetizing system – check
  • Plausible multiple OS/platform support – check
  • Support for (or give generous lip service) to Linux/Apache/NGINX – check
  • Purchasing mayonnaise to eat VMware and SalesForce lunch – check

The means that Microsoft has, in the prospect of PowerApps (despite its cheesy name), a secret sauce that’s worked for them and their clientele before. PowerApps may be the 2015++ version of what VisualBasic and SharePoint did for Microsoft in the ‘90s and ‘00s.

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