When Microsoft Azure was launched in February 2010, it had a tough road ahead of it. Not only did AWS rule the roost at the time, salesforce, Google, and a number of other big names had already either entered the market or had established a niche for themselves.
However, Microsoft was confident in the capabilities provided by its datacentres and the technology and infrastructure that connected them. And they weren’t wrong. Eight years later, Microsoft Azure has established itself as a major player in the cloud computing sector. While AWS still has a dominant lead over Azure, 2018 might just be the year when Azure radically increases its market share.
Before we start listing all the positive signs for Microsoft Azure, let’s take a walk down memory lane and establish a timeline for cloud computing.
Cloud computing as a concept, and in some ways as a technology, has existed since 1960. However, its use was limited due to the limited bandwidth offered by the internet until the 90s. In the late 90s, SalesForce entered the market with a game-changing service and put cloud technologies officially on the map.
In 2002, Amazon started Amazon Web Services (AWS) and started offering cloud based services that delivered powerful capabilities to individuals and organisations alike, and significantly reduced the need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to have the right IT infrastructure in place. With AWS, you gained access to a virtual cluster of powerful computers, and had their resources and capabilities at your disposal. All you needed was high speed internet, an internet-capable computing device, and you were good to go.
AWS turned your browser into more than just a window into another computer connected to you through the internet. It turned the window into a door, and gave you access to applications and programs that your device wouldn’t be able to run on its own, but could now run by tapping into the other computer’s resources. This revolutionised how computers were used in business environments, and for several years, ‘the cloud’ was the only thing anyone could talk about in the business world.
As a writer, I remember a sudden influx of cloud related topics that I was asked to write about at the time – a decade later and the cloud is still a hot topic.
In 2009, Google entered the Cloud game, and in 2010, Microsoft launched Azure. Eight years later, we have AWS, Azure, IBM and Google competing for dominance in the market, with AWS still at the top. We also have Alibaba, Salesforce, and Oracle trying to gain a bigger market share. So how do things look for Azure, which is currently at the number two spot?
Microsoft Azure relies on Microsoft datacentres. The organisation currently has 36 Azure data centres with eight more planned for the future. The company is also planning to connect Virginia to Spain through the Marea Subsea Cable which will have the capability to deliver 160 terabytes per second. Arguably, if you have bigger, better, and more data centres than the competition in the cloud industry, you have the capability to beat them. And Microsoft is doing well in this regard.
Cray, the company that makes the supercomputers used in academic research and in a number of industries, has partnered with Microsoft to bring their storage systems and super computers onto Azure. This can prove to be a gamechanger for Azure as this will enable them to offer dedicated Cray systems to end users who subscribe for the service. This means that you do not need to own a supercomputer to use it anymore, and if your organisation needs it, you can just subscribe to the right package and gain access to Cray’s systems. While it will take Microsoft some time to add Cray’s capabilities to Azure, we can go ahead and safely assume that access to Cray’s systems will not come cheap to the end user, and it will not be for everyone.
Symantec, the company behind Norton Anti-Virus and security tools, has partnered with Microsoft to move its apps and data to Azure. The organisation does not want the additional hassle and cost of owning and operating new datacentres, and Microsoft’s datacentres seem to them like the perfect fit. The company plans to move their digital assets to Azure by March 2018.
Microsoft Azure currently offers 62 compliance offerings, making it the platform with the largest portfolio in the world. It gets 120,000 new subscribers per month, and is trusted by 90% of Fortune 500 companies. That being said, Microsoft Azure holds 12% of the market share in comparison to AWS’s 34%, so they still have a long way to go before they are head to head with Amazon. They do have a lot going for them, and their high profile clients have enabled them to maintain a consistently faster growth rate than AWS. In short, the future looks bright for Microsoft Azure, and it looks like Azure and AWS will be equals in terms of market share by the end of 2018.