Making sense of Microsoft's Azure

From InfoWorld: Last week, Microsoft announced its cloud-computing effort, called Azure. Fitting between Google's and's current offerings, it represents a very big step toward moving applications off the desktop and out of a corporation's own datacenters. Whether or not it will have any traction with corporate IT developers remains to be seen.

Nonetheless, the Azure effort has brought more of a Wild West feel to the whole arena of cloud computing. If this were the late 1880s, would provide the land grants, as well as raw Linux and Windows acreage to build your applications upon. Google's general goods store would stock and give away all the APIs that a programmer could ever use, and some of the scrappy prospectors that came to build the new towns would be from Microsoft. Steve Ballmer as Billy the Kid, anyone?

Enough of the metaphors. Mary Jo Foley's excellent explanation of the different bits and pieces of Azure is worth reading. But the first instance of Azure is long on vision and short on the actual implementation: Microsoft calls it a "community technology preview," what the rest of us would consider an alpha version, given how long it takes Microsoft to actually get things nailed down and working properly (Version 3 is usually where most of us start to think of its code as solid). Granted, Google calls many of its applications beta, but they are typically in much better shape -- I mean, Gmail has been in beta for about 17 years now.

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