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Cloud computing is one of the most competitive markets in IT, which means cloud providers are constantly trying to expand their addressable markets -- even if it means supporting a competitor. Microsoft Azure is a leading cloud platform, and Microsoft Azure Site Recovery, a cloud-based disaster recovery service that now supports AWS and VMware workloads, is a solid indicator of what we can expect from the future of cloud.
Microsoft's initial cloud vision was to create a platform as a service (PaaS) environment that could be used alongside Windows Server and applications written for it. And while PaaS is an ideal vehicle to deliver hybrid cloud because it includes middleware, Microsoft has still faced a number of challenges in the cloud.
For instance, many early cloud use cases just focused on Web-centric applications, which are normally hosted on Linux, not Windows Server. Microsoft competitors like Amazon Web Services (AWS) adopted a more generalized infrastructure as a service (IaaS) model that was a better fit for Web applications in the cloud. VMware users, meanwhile, could expand their virtualized environments into private and hybrid clouds using vCloud.
Secondly, businesses have been slow to move core applications, including those based on Windows Server, to the cloud. Except for uses cases such as disaster recovery and cloud bursting, few enterprises have committed key applications to the cloud.
However, Microsoft Azure Site Recovery has turned these two challenges into opportunities. Because Site Recovery supports Linux and VMware, it offers Microsoft an entry point into businesses that either aren't committed to Microsoft servers or that have already launched virtualization or cloud environments based on another platform. Azure Site Recovery also targets mission-critical applications -- which require backup and capacity expansion -- so it offers users a pathway to the cloud.
Azure Site Recovery is inherently part of Microsoft's hybrid cloud strategy and can introduce wary users to the benefits of cloud for core applications. This demonstrates Microsoft's belief that sustaining cloud growth depends on tapping into the larger enterprise market. And, by addressing both Windows and non-Windows environments, Microsoft is also using Site Recovery to gain market share against competitors like AWS.
What's next for Microsoft Azure Site Recovery?
Another cloud trend Azure Site Recovery speaks to is the fact that users are more interested in disaster recovery than in cloud bursting. Microsoft bundles both of these services under the Site Recovery label, which doesn't emphasize elastic expansion of capacity. Replicating application resources in Azure is presented as a way to adapt to changes in availability -- a disaster recovery mission -- and also to changes in workload, which is cloud bursting.
This positioning presents Microsoft with two additional opportunities for Azure Site Recovery: one in the orchestration of application deployment, and one in encouraging users to migrate applications to Azure PaaS.
Microsoft Azure Site Recovery is based on orchestration, or policies and plans that are converted into triggers and actions. This lends itself to the DevOps model, where developers use scripts to manage application deployment. If Microsoft can exploit Site Recovery orchestration more broadly, it could gain mindshare in the rapidly growing orchestration market. Even if users don't want to migrate to a Windows or Azure platform, the orchestration features of Azure Site Recovery could help them develop replicable applications and ensure non-Windows components can integrate with Azure.
Microsoft is preparing for the next cloud battleground -- mission-critical applications -- and realizes that hybrid environments and replication are inevitable for these apps. A PaaS platform makes both easier to do, and Microsoft can price Azure services to include licensing for critical operating system and middleware components that would have to be licensed separately for IaaS clouds.
Azure Site Recovery helps Microsoft validate PaaS as the preferred model for hybrid cloud and for hosting mission-critical components. Microsoft is already the leader in PaaS, and if it can emphasize the benefits of PaaS, it could overtake providers like AWS. As the next great wave of cloud opportunity begins, Microsoft Azure Site Recovery may be the first shot in the biggest cloud market battle yet.
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