Cloud Computing

Windows Azure Infrastructure Services – Microsoft is not yet on par with Amazon AWS

That Microsoft, as one of the world’s leading IT companies eventually have to fight with an “online store” and a “search engine” for market share, probably, no one ever dared to dream in Redmond. But that is the reality. Amazon and its Amazon Web Services (AWS) are the engine of innovation in the cloud computing market. And even Google is catching up steadily. Google has specifically in the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market with the App Engine and the software-as-a-service (SaaS) market with Google Apps already well positioned products. Amazon, however, is in the area of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) the absolute market leader. Here also Microsoft attacks now. After Windows Azure was positioned as a pure PaaS on market at the beginning, more and more IaaS components were added successively. With the new release, Microsoft has now officially rolled out the Windows Azure infrastructure services. For many this step comes too late, as a large market share in this area already have been spent to AWS. However, where it initially looks disadvantageous also some benefits, that are overlooked by most, are hidden.

Windows Azure Infrastructure Services at a glance

Basically, the Azure infrastructure services are nothing new. In a public release preview this have already been presented in June 2012. According to Microsoft, “… more than 1.4 million virtual machines have been created and used by hundreds of millions of processor hours.” In addition, today already more than 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies use Windows Azure and thereby manage a total of more than four trillion data and information on Windows Azure. The capacity for compute and storage solutions double in about every six to nine months. According to Microsoft, every day nearly 1,000 new customers register on Windows Azure.

With the release of Windows Azure infrastructure services, Microsoft’s cloud computing stack has now officially completed. In addition to the operation of virtual machines, the update includes the associated network components. Furthermore, Microsoft now offers support for virtual machines and also the most common Microsoft server workloads such as Microsoft BizTalk or SQL Server 2012. In addition to Windows the Linux operating system is fully valid supported on the virtual machines. The Windows Azure Virtual Networks should also allow hybrid operations.

New instances and updated SLAs

In addition to new virtual instances, for example with more storage capacity of 28GB and 56GB, virtual images are also prepared, such as for BizTalk Server and SQL Server. Prepared Linux images, inter alia CentOS, Ubuntu and Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), are provided by commercial vendors. Furthermore, there are numerous open source applications prepared in the VM Images depot on self-service basis. Microsoft server products including Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013, SharePoint Server 2013, BizTalk Server 2013 have already been tested from Microsoft to run on the virtual machines.

Furthermore, the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) have been revised. Microsoft guarantees 99.95 percent availability including financial security, if there is a failure on Microsoft’s side. In addition to an SLA for cloud services Microsoft offers seven SLAs specifically for memory, SQL database, SQL Reporting, Service Bus, Caching, CDN and media services.

7/24/365 Support

A Microsoft support team is available every day around the clock. The support plans are divided into four levels from developer support through Premier Support.

Price reduction for virtual machines and cloud services

Such as Amazon AWS also Microsoft passes his savings through economies of scale to its customers. This immediately following new prices and extensions are available:

  • Virtual machines (Windows, default instances), are up to 31 May in reduced prices. The new general availability rates apply from 1 June 2013. For a small instance the new price is € 0.0671 per hour.
  • The prices for virtual machines (Linux) for default instances have been reduced by 25 percent. From 16 April 2013, prices for small, medium, large and extra large instances be reduced by 25 percent. The price for a small Linux instance will be reduced from € 0.0596 per hour to € 0.0447 per hour in all regions.
  • The prices for virtual networks start at € 0.0373 per hour, effective from 1 June 2013. Up to 1 June, customers can use the virtual network for free.
  • The prices of cloud services for Web and Worker roles were reduced by 33 percent for default instances. From 16 April 2013 the price drops for small, medium, large and extra large instances by 33 percent. The price for a small worker role will be reduced from € 0.0894 per hour to € 0.0596 per hour in all regions.

Not too late for the big part of the pie

Even though Microsoft is very late in the highly competitive market for infrastructure-as-a-service does not mean that they missed the boat. In many countries the adaptation of cloud computing just started. In addition, the big money is made at the established corporate clients and only then with the startups. Even Amazon has understood that and has taken the appropriate measures.

Furthermore, the importance of the private cloud, and thus the hybrid cloud increases worldwide. And here the hand already looks quite different. Microsoft has with its Windows Server 2012 a well-placed product for the private cloud, which can be seamlessly integrated with Windows Azure. Here Amazon AWS can just quickly be active with a possible acquisition of Eucalyptus. A first intensive cooperation between the two companies already exists.

However, the Windows Azure infrastructure services are primarily public cloud services. And here it must be said that the diversity of the service portfolio of the Amazon Web Services is still significantly greater than of Windows Azure. For example, services such as Elastic IP or CloudFormation are missing. Nevertheless, Microsoft with its portfolio is currently the only public cloud provider on the market, who can be seriously dangerous for Amazon AWS. Because “infrastructure means more than just infrastructure” and therefore it is about “making the infrastructure usable“.

See also: Amazon Web Services vs. Microsoft Windows Azure – A direct comparison (to be updated)

And what about Google?

Google should not be underestimated in any case. On the contrary, in a first performance comparison between the Google Cloud Platform and Amazon AWS, Google emerged as the winner. However, the current service portfolio of the Google Cloud Platform is confined in the core of computing power, storage and databases. Other value added services that rely on the platform, are still missing. In addition, Google can currently only be seen as a pure public cloud provider. In the private/ hybrid cloud environment are no products to be found yet. This needs to be improved with collaborations and acquisitions to meet the needs of conservative corporate customers in the future. Especially since Google still has a not to be underestimated reputation problem in data protection and data acquisitiveness. Here more transparency must be shown.

Microsoft is not yet on par with Amazon AWS

With the official release of the Windows Azure infrastructure services, Microsoft has begun to catch up with the Amazon Web Services in infrastructure-as-a-service market. But a game at eye level can not be mentioned here. Because something new, or even innovations can not be found in the new Azure release. Instead, Microsoft only tries to catch up the technology advantage of Amazon AWS with the extension of infrastructure resources, … but that’s it. The degree of innovation by Amazon should not be underestimate, who expand its cloud platform with other disruptive services and functions at regular intervals.

Nevertheless, in the attractive environment for enterprise customers Microsoft is in a good position and has expanded its portfolio with the Azure infrastructure services with another important component towards Amazon. In addition, Microsoft already has a very large on-premise customer base that needs to be transferred to the cloud now. Among them renowned and financially well-positioned companies. And this is precisely the area in which Amazon has still to build trust. Moreover, one should not neglect the ever-growing private cloud market. Here, the hands on both sides are equally quite different.

That Microsoft is not yet on par with Amazon in the IaaS area does not mean that they will not be successful. It is not necessarily decisive, to be the first on the market and have the best product, but to persuade its existing and potential customers expect to provide an added value. And it would not be the first time that Microsoft would do this.


Dead PC market – Microsoft is the scapegoat!

To start off with, I do not agree with every decision that Microsoft takes and by far there are products which I consider critical too. But what happened here just shows how narrow-minded some arguments are. The background of the excitement are the conclusions of the market researchers IDC and Gartner on the current situation in the PC market. Both make Microsoft respectively Windows 8 responsible for the death of the PC. Lastly, even the investment bankers at Goldman Sachs and other financial analysts associated and come to absurd statements. Microsoft is here wrongly used as a scapegoat!

Background: Current data from the PC market

According to IDC, in the first quarter of 2013, only 76.3 million devices were shipped. This is a decrease of 14 percent. Gartner’s numbers a day later showing a decline of 11.2 percent, that mean 79.2 million shipped personal computers.

Quickly the culprit for this was identified. Microsoft, respectively Windows 8. IDC actually assumed that Windows 8 should ensure a revival of the PC market. However, Microsoft have worsened the situation, according to IDC, because the customer can not get used to the new tile environment, etc.

Meanwhile, the financial sector had responded. One financial analyst is quoted as follows: “The PC used in the business is a mature market with declining replacement investments and in the consumer market you need not have an Office, so no Windows and thus no Microsoft.” Investment bankers therefore have advised their customers to sell their Microsoft shares.

For me, this statement shows, that investment bankers and financial analysts have no providence and even worse, have not a hunch of ​​the market, they are asked to assess. Instead of critical scrutinize the conclusions of IDC and Gartner initially, unqualified statements are made that will possibly have a financial impact on Microsoft and an entire industry.

Hybrid Tablets are the trend

The PC market is not dead, it has changed in recent years. And if one would argue from the perspective of Gartner and IDC, it would be Apple, who is, with the launch of the iPad, responsible for the death of the PC market.

Certainly, the situation is quite different. The PC is not dead, it has now begun to assume a different shape. In my five cloud computing, mobile and big data predictions for 2013, I pointed out that particularly hybrid tablets will move into the enterprise. Hybrid tablets are tablets with a clip-on or rotating hardware keyboard. This has the background, that tablets help us to use most of the IT, the Internet and other things more convenient. However, for the full application in the enterprise, but also in the private sphere, they are not suitable. At conferences and travels, I regular see users, who bought an external keyboard for their tablet. Hybrid tablets are the best of both worlds. The tablet with its touch screen and an easy to use interface, plus the traditional laptops and their keyboards. Writing long texts on a tablet with the virtual keyboard is no fun and exhausting what are also the reactions of business users. In addition, hybrid tablets will replace today’s conventional laptops. And what runs inter alia on these hybrids? Right, Windows 8 – and even MS Office.

That hybrid tablets are the trend has now also been recognized by Apple. There are initial reports that Apple has filed a patent for a “Hybrid Tablet Notebook“.

User behavior is changing

Just as the technology market develops, our lives and our way we consume technologies is affected. If Microsoft had in 2002 waives the keyboard on their tablet and set on touch instead of a pen and chosen a thinner form factor they had been turn the PC market upside down 11 years ago. However, it was Apple that could go one better at the right time and under the hype of the iPod and iPhone with the iPad.

However, we also see that Microsoft’s concept of a hybrid tablet from 2002 already was the right decision. One may therefore say that Microsoft has already back the right horse at that time. It was, as so often, just not the right time.

Let’s look across to the automobile industry, we see similar changes. “Why are thousands of new cars secretly parking in Bavaria?” Because the orders of the automakers to go back and the sales of new vehicles breaks. “Thousands of cars have to be swapped out to make room for newer models and keep the market alive.”

And why is that? Because the user behavior and the claims change. A high SAP manager has told me at CeBIT that in the interviews of young talents it’s not about whether and which company car to get since a long time. The question is, if you get an iPhone and iPad.

I’ve heard a lecture by a Roland Berger consultant a few days ago. The message was very clear, that the car market as we know it today is dead. Logically, new mobility concepts like flinc, Flinkster, book-n-drive or car2go are much more cost efficient. In many cases it is just not worth more to make large investments in an own car. In addition to the monthly cost of taxes and insurance, gasoline prices are one reason. Here you also can not make a single car manufacturer or model responsible for this mess. It’s about what the customers want.

We are currently experiencing the greatest technological revolution until today, which breaks down directly on our society. Starting from IT concepts (cloud computing, mobile, social media, etc.) the behavior of the users in other industries are also changing. And not a single company is responsible for that!

Cloud Computing

Office 365 Home Premium – Microsoft does not rely on software-as-a-service

Yesterday Microsoft has introduced its new Office for the retail market. The new Office 365 Home Premium promises to deliver new capabilities for direct connection to social networks, SkyDrive and Skype to facilitate communication with family and friends. In addition, each user has his personal office anywhere. Use it on a PC, tablet or smartphone – and even on the Mac. The control is done in addition to keyboard by touch or pen input. But who thought that Microsoft offers its new office to the idea of the cloud as SaaS (software-as-a-service), is mistaken.

Cloud but not software-as-a-service

Office 365 Home Premium is not SaaS or a cloud service in the strict sense, because the office is not provided or used over the browser. (Although there are the completely free Office Web Apps, which have directly nothing to do with Office 365 Home Premium.) Microsoft gives the reason that not all Office functions can be operated performant in the browser. Instead, Microsoft is going an “interesting” way which is totally new. Microsoft Office becomes hybrid. Microsoft names this truly innovative technology as “Office streaming”. Through “Click 2 Run” an office suite can be installed in minutes. The interesting thing is that Microsoft initially installed the statistically most used basic functions, so you can quickly start working with Office. So you are able to work with Office already during the installation. In the background the rest is installed. The cluo: If a function is called, for example of Word, while Office is still in installation mode, this function is prioritized accurately and directly streamed. (Whether this type of installation, a user really needs is another question, but the idea is good.)

Cloud is just in the backend

Office 365 Home Premium syncs all personal settings and documents automatically to the cloud. Thus all data are available on all connected PCs. This also works on other PCs, if you log on there with a Microsoft account of, or Based on the new technology “Office on Demand” the office is then streamed from the cloud for processing on the respective computer. “Office on Demand” installs Office on the local system in a virtual environment. When the session is closed, the virtual environment and the Office with all the data completely disappears from the system. Thus, Microsoft would ensure privacy when using on other computers.

Prices and goodies

Office 365 Home Premium includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and also Outlook, Access and Publisher. By subscribing a user automatically has to have the latest Office solution on the hard drive or on the road via”Office on Demand”. Other goodies: 60 minutes per month with Skype to landlines, additional 20 GB SkyDrive storage and use rights for up to five devices, laptops, tablets and smartphones, for both Windows and Mac environments.


  • Office 365 Home Premium: 99 EUR per year
  • Office 365 University: 79 EUR for 4 years
  • Office Home & Student 2013 for 139 EUR
  • Office Home & Business 2013 for 269 EUR
  • Office Professional 2013 for 539 EUR

Office 365-Business

From 27 February 2013 also new Office 365 business services with new functions will be available, which will probably also include a SkyDrive Pro version.

The strategy is consistent with Windows 8

That Microsoft does not rely on SaaS is a little surprising, but it fits into the Windows 8 strategy. The applications are mostly held locally to ensure the speed and necessarily not have to rely on a data connection. All personal settings and documents, if the user wants, are stored in the cloud in order to ensure the location and platform independent access. This is ensured by “Office on Demand” and streaming.

Is the Microsoft Office suite still contemporary?

For me, the question arises, why Microsoft continued its commitment to this massive office suite and does not offer applications separately. I understand the strategy to give end users access to Outlook. Parents can e.g. organize the family. But who does that really? After Microsoft’s research probably some. So, reference customers were allowed to talk about their use cases during the launch event. I’m not so sure. If you look at the behavior of (young) users, who prefer to self assemble their productivity suite and do not want to get dictated by mom and dad. (The influence of their friends is much greater.) Dropbox for storage, Evernote for taking notes, Remember the Milk or Wunderlist for tasks, GMail or for e-mail are among the favorite candidates. The Cloud and Mobile apps make it possible.

Office is good, no question! But is this powerful solution still contemporary? Do users really want to get dictated what they should use or do they prefer to assemble their own solutions. Word and Excel are an added value for each personal productivity suite, but for that they must be offered separately, and I do not mean the Office Web Apps.