Azure as Manhattan Project
November 3, 2008
I usually find myself in agreement with Dan Farber’s analyses. I generally agree with his “Microsoft’s Manhattan Project” write up here. Please, read his article, because I can be more skeptical about Microsoft’s ability to follow through with some of its technical assertions. It is easy for a Microsoft executive to say that software will perform a function. It is quite a different thing to deliver software that actually delivers. Mr. Farber is inclined to see Microsoft’s statements and demos about Microsoft Azure as commitment. He wrote:
Microsoft’s cloud computing efforts have gotten off to a slow start compared with competitors, and it’s on the scale of a Manhattan Project for Windows. Azure is in pre-beta and who knows how it will turn out or whether consumers and companies will adopt it with enough volume to keep Microsoft’s business model and market share intact. But there is no turning back and Microsoft has finally legitimized Office in the cloud.
My take is similar but there is an important difference between what Microsoft is setting out to do and what Google and Salesforce.com, among others, have done. Specifically, Google and Salesforce.com have developed new applications to run in a cloud environment. Google has many innovations, including MapReduce and Salesforce.com has its multi tenant architecture.
Microsoft’s effort will, in part, involve moving existing applications to the cloud. I think this is going to be an interesting exercise. Some of these targeted for the cloud applications like SharePoint have their share of problems. Other applications do not integrate well in on premises locations so those hiccups have to be calmed.
The big difference between Azure and what Google and other Microsoft competitors are doing may be more difficult than starting from ground zero. Unfortunately, time is not on Microsoft’s side. Microsoft also has the friction imposed by the bureaucracy of a $60.0 billion company. Agility and complexity may combine to pose some big challenges for the Azure Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project was complex but focused on one thing. Microsoft’s Azure by definition has to focus on protecting legacy applications, annuity revenue, and existing functions in a new environment. That’s a big and possibly impossible job to get right on a timeline of a year and a half.
Stephen Arnold, November 3, 2008