What is Microsoft Azure

Microsoft has given its new cloud services operating system the name Azure. It’s as if Microsoft Azure is the computing sky that supports your Internet cloud.

From a developer standpoint, Azure will be an open platform in which developers can build applications using Visual Studio (which is already supported) and a host of third-party tools such as Eclipse, Ruby, PHP, and Python.

The underlying services are very familiar to network admins and they include Live Services, .Net Services, SQL Services, SharePoint Services, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services — all residing on Windows Azure, the cloud services operating system.

Microsoft is certainly putting quite a bit behind Azure with a fancy new Web site and resources that are quite helpful. Resources to support developers and decisionmakers are growing with the online site providing the SDKs for developers to work with it, as well as case studies, white papers, videos, datasheets, and more.

Microsoft isn’t the only one aiming for the clouds. As mentioned earlier, Google Apps is an impressive SaaS solution that includes messaging (with Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, etc.); collaboration (with Google Docs, Google Video, and Google Sites); and security for on-premise e-mail. IBM has a very solid reputation for providing both the cloud infrastructure as well as the services and applications.

But neither Google, nor IBM, nor even Microsoft are the kings of cloud computing. Who is? Surprisingly enough, it is Amazon. Amazon’s Elastic Computing Cloud is the first platform to support Oracle’s database platform.

Well, the one statement Microsoft might be making by calling its product Azure is that it is going to support the clouds rather than be a cloud. For example, the Amazon solution is a proprietary cloud. If you go with a vendor like Amazon to host your technology infrastructure, there is no easy way to pull your infrastructure over to another cloud to back into its own datacenter. There are no standards to moving things around, which is another discussion in and of itself.