I’ve been lucky enough to have some time to play with Windows Azure over the last couple months and I have some opinions on the platform. Overall I think my opinion on the idea of The Cloud is about the same as when I started. To begin with I wish they hadn’t called it The Cloud – or maybe that it hadn’t stuck as a part of the technical conversation. I think the name conjures up this romantic image for business users of a technology solution that exists out there – somewhere over the rainbow.
Which is the marketing goal, but for those of us using it we want to understand how it works and we want to know where our data is. Thankfully, once you get past the marketing layer and start looking at the technology behind the Azure Platform-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service solutions it starts looking less like a nebulous cloud and more like the Microsoft technology we have come to love (and sometimes hate). Windows Azure, The Cloud solution from Microsoft, is really just another piece of technology that can be used to solve business problems.
Learning how Windows Azure SQL Database (WASD) or Windows Azure Virtual Machines (WAVM) fit into an existing solutions isn’t any different from having to learn the newest features of SQL Server 2014 or the latest .Net framework. Technology changes and we can learn the new or risk working on the old until it goes away. I admit that there has historically been an ebb and flow of centralized versus distributed IT, but I find it hard to picture the internet going away. Lets face it, unless we get attacked by Cylons and have to shut down all of our computer networks the notion of cloud computing is here to stay. If anything I think we will see more hybrid and cloud solutions over the next couple of decades. Those solutions may not look anything like Azure, but they will have grown from what Azure is now.
If you are a SQL Server DBA or Developer I highly recommend looking at Windows Azure (if you haven’t already). There is a free trial so you can play without paying and get an idea of what is out there. I have been building demo solutions and working my way through Pro SQL Database for Windows Azure to learn as much as I can. For my part I am more interested in the Azure Platform solution than the Virtual machines. WASD doesn’t do everything that SQL Server can do, but it is designed to work well with the rest of the Azure platform. When you start to look at everything in Azure, WASD is a small piece. It is the piece that DBA’s will feel most comfortable with, but it is much better when viewed as part of the entire platform and not just as a database in the cloud.
The Cloud is not going away. Whether it is called Windows Azure or something else in 10 years there will still be scalable application and data resources available for creating IT solutions. I think the real shift will come when we stop thinking of it as The Cloud and just as IT.
So say we all.