Ten Years of Microsoft Azure

Date: Oct 27, 2022

Related Tags:1. AWS or Microsoft Azure
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Abstract: When Ray Ozzie, former chief software architect at Microsoft, announced Windows Azure at the 2008 PDC conference, no one could predict what impact the software platform would have on the company and the industry.

Ray Oz was one of the earliest and most famous advocates of the "web-delivered software innovation model" that would later become known as "Software as a Service (SaaS)."

In a well-known Microsoft internal memo dated October 28, 2005, Oz laid out his vision of building a disruptive system that recreates the Microsoft Windows OS, .NET application software services, and Microsoft Office Suite on the Internet sex platform. At the time, no one could have imagined that the idea would eventually lead to Azure IaaS, Azure PaaS, and Office 365.

Internal memo:


Ray Ozzie

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer initially staunchly opposed the new software-as-a-service paradigm, fearing it would eat into the Windows and Office businesses, which account for 80% of Microsoft's total revenue. But in the end, Ballmer was not only persuaded, but used the slogan "we're all in" to push Microsoft into a full-fledged cloud computing company.

When Satya Nadella became the new CEO, he set the company's new direction around a "mobile first, cloud first" strategy. A cloud-first strategy requires internal product teams and external partners to prioritize Azure when selling to the enterprise. In hindsight, this strategy clearly paid off satisfactorily.

From the basic idea of ​​simply migrating the Windows operating system to the Internet, to finally helping Microsoft win the famous JEDI contract, Azure has gone through a long journey along the way. It now rivals Amazon Web Services as one of the most reliable enterprise cloud platforms.

Microsoft Azure went live on February 1, 2010. Now that the Azure community and partner ecosystem celebrates its tenth birthday, let's take a look at the major milestones Microsoft's cloud platform has experienced over the past decade!


Red Dog and Internet-facing Windows OS

Azure was originally code-named "Red Dog", and its original design idea was to build Windows NT extensions based on the cloud. Dave Cutler, a distinguished Microsoft engineer who was in charge of the Windows NT architecture, was given the task of designing a new operating system to serve as the system foundation for Microsoft's cloud system, from which Windows Azure came, and was later renamed Microsoft Azure .

Windows Azure was originally positioned as a replacement for Amazon EC2 and Google App Engine. Amazon EC2 is Amazon's infrastructure as a service (Infrastructure as a Service, IaaS), which is still in the beta stage, but has attracted great attention from developers. The Google App Engine released in 2008 is the industry's first Platform as a Service (Platform as a Service, PaaS) product. Considering its deep historical background in developer platforms and tools, Microsoft decided to release Azure as a PaaS product.

The first version of Windows Azure had only a handful of services, but these still formed the four pillars of the platform. The first is the compute service that contains the web role and worker role components. Developers can package and run ASP.NET web applications and APIs based on web roles, which are designed for long-running and provide no UI.

Azure Blob storage, the equivalent of Amazon S3, is the second pillar of Windows Azure, which brings excellent durability and operational stability to the service. The third pillar is the SQL Azure database service, which is very similar to Microsoft SQL Server. The fourth pillar is Azure Service Bus, a set of message buses derived from BizTalk Server.

Even after its full launch in 2010, Windows Azure is still not a very enterprise-friendly cloud platform. At that time, Windows Azure was only for a small community of developers who built specific web applications, and it could not be widely used.

2012~2014: Ushering in OSS and IaaS Transformation

Amazon EC2 became generally available in 2008, and Microsoft Windows Server VMs also began offering beta versions. Customers can remotely access the desktop to the EC2 instance and install the software they want. The release of Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) has also helped more users use EC2 to run various traditional Windows software in the cloud.

Another important trend emerging during this time period is the widespread use of open source software (OSS). Because Linux VMs are cheaper and offer stable open source packages such as Apache, PHP, and MySQL, more and more developers are turning to the open source camp. Canonical's Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE, and Amazon's own Linux are some of the most popular distributions in cloud computing.

The rise of OSS and the rapid development of Amazon EC2 have caused Microsoft to rethink its cloud computing strategy. Clearly, cloud services delivered through IaaS are easier for customers to control. At the same time, developers need a more open cloud platform that can support open source software, especially Linux.

The above two trends forced Microsoft to re-examine its cloud strategy, eventually rebranding Windows Azure as Microsoft Azure, and giving Linux everything on Azure.

Scott Guthrie, then VP of the Developer Tools and Platforms Group, and Windows OS Division Technician Mark Russinovich refactored Windows Azure for PaaS It was successfully transformed into an IaaS version of Microsoft Azure. This is no easy task. Scott, Mark, and their team are doing the same job as fueling an Airbus, building a new model based on IaaS while maintaining the compatibility and programmability of legacy Windows Azure APIs.

In 2014, Microsoft worked closely with companies such as Red Hat, Oracle, SUSE, and Canonical to promote Azure as the ideal Linux OS environment. By 2017, 40 percent of all virtual machines deployed on Azure were running Linux.

2014~2016: Join the Big Data, Analytics and IoT Wave

Cloud computing vendors, after experiencing the three major risks of computing, storage and networking, began to regard data as a core differentiator. Amazon launched EMR, and Google launched BigQuery, which is positioned as a cloud data warehouse.

Microsoft is partnering with Hortonworks, a big data startup that competes with Cloudera, to co-develop Azure HDInsight, Microsoft's cloud-hosted version of Apache Hadoop. In addition, Azure Data Lake Store and Azure Data Lake Analytics were launched, aiming to provide an end-to-end big data analytics platform for Azure.

In 2015, Microsoft acquired Revolution Analytics, bringing the popular R language to the Azure data platform.

After realizing that the Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest driver of data-driven work, Microsoft started investing in IoT managed services. Azure became one of the few public clouds with event hubs, IoT hubs, streaming analytics, SQL databases, and an end-to-end device stack powered by Power BI.

Today, Microsoft is the only company that offers IoT Core Components (PaaS) and a multi-tenant ready-to-use IoT SaaS solution (Azure IoT Central).

2016~2018: Double down on investing in containers and Kubernetes

Linux containers have taken the industry by storm over the past few years. Originally driven by Docker, the containerization trend has brought a new landscape of application development and deployment based on the microservices model.

Subsequently, Kubernetes became the platform of choice for managing containers and microservices at scale. As the founder of Kubernetes, Google released Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) before handing over code and stewardship to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

In 2016, Microsoft hired Brendan Burns, one of the co-founders of Kubernetes and a principal engineer at Google. Brandon was also quick to come up with a container development strategy for Azure, helping Microsoft launch Kubernetes, a managed platform called Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS).

In addition to support for Windows Containers, Microsoft is involved in a number of interesting innovative projects, including Virtual Kubelet, Kubernetes-based Event-driven Autoscaling, Service Mesh Interface, Open Application Model, and Distributed Application Runtime (DAPR).

Today, Microsoft and Azure have a strong reputation in the container and Kubernetes development community. Like Google, AWS, SAP, Cisco and others, Microsoft has also become a platinum member in the CNCF.

2018~2020: Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge

Microsoft has been involved in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) from a very early age. Its Cognitive APIs cover areas such as language understanding, speech, vision, search, and translation.

With Azure ML Studio, Azure becomes the first public cloud platform to help visual designers train and deploy machine learning models. After dabbling in developer tools and IDEs with the discontinued Azure ML Workbench, Microsoft has finally found success with Azure ML Services. The service supports deep learning models, NVIDIA GPUs, Intel FPGAs, enhanced pipelines, MLOps, and more, and even supports a drag-and-drop designer for training neural networks.

Investments in databases, big data, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence have helped Microsoft build an end-to-end data platform with high AI integration, thereby promoting the development of its Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge solutions. development and advocacy.

Microsoft was one of the first companies to extend Azure's capabilities to the "last mile" and bet on edge computing. Azure IoT Edge and Azure Stack Edge have become the foundation for running compute, storage, and analytics at the edge.

Microsoft's partnership with Intel, NVIDIA and Qualcomm makes Azure IoT Edge the best platform for accelerating AI models at the edge.

With the strong innovation capabilities of Azure Cognitive Services, the deep integration of ML Services and AI in the data platform, as well as Azure IoT Edge and Azure Stack, Satya's vision of "Intelligent Cloud" and "Intelligent Edge" is being realized step by step.

2020 and beyond: Azure Arc - the foundation of the hybrid cloud

More and more companies are paying attention to two new key trends - the popularity of Kubernetes in the data center and investment in cloud environments.

Many enterprises adopt Kubernetes internally, resulting in a state where legacy infrastructure coexists with modern infrastructure. Because Kubernetes is available in almost all public cloud environments, it is becoming the core of multi-cloud and hybrid cloud deployments.

Recognizing this trend, Microsoft launched a Kubernetes-based hybrid cloud strategy. The new platform, dubbed Azure Arc, helps customers manage virtual machines, physical machines, and various containerized workloads managed by Kubernetes on a single control panel.

Unlike other competing products such as AWS Outposts, Google Anthos, VMware Tanzu, IBM Multi-cloud Manager, and Red Hat OpenShift, Azure Arc levels the playing field for traditional and modern workloads. Azure Arc makes it possible to use some of the hosting services offered by the Azure public cloud in on-premises data centers or even on competing cloud platforms.

Outlook In the future, Azure Arc will become a unified computing architecture for multi-cloud and hybrid cloud platforms.

Of course, the milestones mentioned above don't provide a comprehensive overview of Azure's growth trajectory over the past decade. In addition, Microsoft has launched CosmosDB, blockchain, various backup, DR, and migration tools, acquired many interesting startups, published influential enterprise case studies, and won $10 billion in one fell swoop order for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure.

With its 44-year history, Microsoft has once again proved that with the right strategy, vision and execution, it is possible to maintain a sustainable position in a highly competitive market. Even more exciting is that Microsoft remains dynamic, able to transform itself to adapt to rapidly changing markets and customer expectations.

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