Microsoft Punches Cisco, VMware in the eyes with Windows Azure Appliance

Windows Azure Appliance, which Microsoft announced recently, will combine Windows Azure and SQL Azure in such a way that service providers, large companies and governments will be able to use them in own datacenters. This cloud platform will utilise multiple servers, whose specifics will be given by Microsoft. However, the network, storage and hardware resources will be provided by partners. The appliance also undertakes Cisco’s UCS product, which was the cause of HP’s recent alienation.
This is exactly why the powerful partners in the face of HP, Dell and Fujitsu, who desire their users to work in a 100% ‘Cisco-less’ environment, present a strong competitor to the Cisco-VMware-EMC joint product Acadia Vblock. This product offers server, storage and visualization, but not implementation with a specific cloud service.

Cisco vs. Microsoft

In recent years, Cisco aims to grow by entering new markets, since it has its own market for Ethernet networking tools. It has joined Microsoft’s opposition in many ways besides Acadia, which include Nexus 1000V, operated within VMware and supporting Hyper-V, and VN-Link, which as of last month will be implemented within Red Hat Enterprise KVM Virtualization.

However, Microsoft is only partially interested in the datacenter. In the words of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the motivation is to bring rich clients and cloud services to the enterprise users and keep them happy. For him the advantage lies in the big clients, regardless whether the cloud will work locally, on a standard infrastructure or on an intelligent and more capable OS or device. Microsoft will support all client scenarios but without forgetting to maintain the software smart, but easy to manage.

The essence of a cloud appliance

This notion brings mixed opinions. It is good to have intelligent devices, which combine multiple tasks, such as phone calls, document editors and web browsers. But in terms of cloud services, we would like to preserve the small clients, who would need for example only a browser and some networks (3G/4G, WiFi, LANs/WAN), because having more important clients could lead to the paradox of TV’s and phones needing the maintenance of a Windows PC.

Details on the price and actual form of Windows Azure appliance are still very scarce. Although it was reported that a Windows Azure appliance will be run by Dell by January 2011, there is no mention of availability for enterprise purchase. Still, Microsoft insists that it has signed eBay as user, who supposedly will use the platform for applications such as auctions, whereas HP plans to run the service within their own premises. The appliance will probably be bigger than the average 2U rack device, which we call an “appliance”, since it would consist of several servers and network hardware in one place.