Microsoft Azure – Or Is It ?

Microsoft Azure, the umbrella name for Microsoft’s cloud computing services has over the past week or so come under focus because of the direct competition from Amazon who released Elastic BeanStalk for .NET as an alternative to the Azure Platform as a Service (PaaS) and also SQL Server as part of their Relational Data Service (RDS) to challenge SQL Azure, Microsofts cloud based relational data service.

Faced with this daunting competition I was surprised, as an Azure user,  to receive the email below from Microsoft:

In the coming weeks, we will update the Windows Azure Service names that appear in the usage records you download. These are only name changes – your prices for Windows Azure are not impacted. The table below summarizes the changes:

Prior Service Name New Service Name
Windows Azure Compute Cloud Services
Windows Azure Platform – All Services All Services
Windows Azure CDN CDN
Windows Azure Storage Storage
Windows Azure Traffic Manager Traffic Manager
Windows Azure Virtual Network Virtual Network
AppFabric Cache Cache
AppFabric Service Bus Service Bus
AppFabric Access Control Access Control
SQL Azure SQL Database
SQL Azure Reporting Service SQL Reporting

My immediate reaction was that Microsoft were dropping the ‘Azure’ brand and then I wondered why. Pretty quickly the forums were buzzing with rumours and   speculation on why Microsoft have done this. Microsoft quickly moved to quash these as seen by the Twitter post below.

Microsoft claim that the name change is purely for billing purposes and that the services and the Azure brand remain as before. In context of the competition Azure is facing, surely it would be better for Microsoft to concentrate on improving the range of services , quality and price rather than cosmetic changes such as this that have done nothing other than cause confusion. Undoubtedly Azure is a strong cloud offering, but it is now just one of many, and the beauty of cloud computing is that if applied correctly for an organisation, enables them to move supplier with minimal disruption to existing services. The customer is no longer tied in to longer term contracts as they were before when they bought Microsoft products and had them installed on their own hardware. Today there is much more flexibility for customers and choice when they are buying computing services.

The market and therefore associated marketing for computing services has changed rapidly over the last few years putting the customer most definitely in control. This means that companies must be aware and take into account these market changes to remain competitive. Failure to do so will mean customers will rapidly move to other suppliers who provide a better service. Microsoft have much to gain from cloud computing over the next few years, but also much to possibly lose if they do not evolve with the market. Last weeks announcement suggests they have some way to go if they are to handle customers in the cloud world appropriately.

Chris Czarnecki

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