As you've bound to have heard by now, Microsoft recently announced Windows Azure at the PDC08, the new Cloud operating system.
I must say I'm really intreagued by this.
The possibilities are big. Think of the extreme costs you have for running and maintaining an application. For instance:
- You need to be able to scale according to user interest
- You need to be highly responsive - which means a server in Norway might work pretty bad when accessed from US or Asia
- You need to have a server park in at the very least one place to just host the applications (if you can afford the downtime a electricity failure would cause, or possibly the loss of data and hardware a fire/earthquake could cause)
- You need failover database solutions (If manually recreating a backup won't do)
- Some data might not be allowed to be stored in some countries, you need to be sure that whatever solution you choose will handle this properly
Instead of these options you could get into some sort of external hosting solution. And this is in many regards what MS is offering with Azure, but I bet a fair bit of hosting-providers are literally shaking now after the new plans of MS have been introduced.
We are talking big, big scale investsments in this. The tight integration with the current MS software and process of doing things (Visual studio for instance) doesn't hurt in the process of making this popular. And it's not like they don't have quite a bit of internal expertise in this already; for instance through running the Live services.
One of the most important things are the continous expectations of ever more interactive and graphics-heavy software delivered at the blink of an eye over the internet. You can do this yourself, but I doubt the cost/value calculation will be on your size.
Another things is scaling. With Azure, or the cloud service offering, you can scale up or down according to user interest. An application with user peaks that vary over time can be tough financially, since you can end up with much more hardware set up than you usually need.
One big issue is privacy. If you host this in the cloud, you put you data in Microsofts hands. Are you cool with that?
As you have noticed, my detailed understand of Azure is lacking, to be honest I haven't bothered focusing too much on it, so much else which is intersting here at PDC! I do believe though that this can become such a big thing, and I'm expecting to have to consider it much more in the future - but for now I'll leave it to someone else.
Check out Azure here.