What is Microsoft Azure and Can It Compete Against Other Clouds?

Pretty much everyone has heard of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office. What fewer people know about is Microsoft Azure. They may have heard of it but don't know what it is. What is Microsoft Azure, and can it compete against other clouds?

An Overview of Azure

Microsoft Azure, originally called Windows Azure, is Microsoft's cloud computing service. They changed the name because it can handle Linux as well as Windows. There are hundreds of services like file storage, backups and full virtual machines available on Azure.

It isn't as heavily utilized as Amazon Web Services or the Google Cloud Platform. For example, Amazon Web Services has more than a million users ranging from small businesses trying to put out an app or develop a service that will be accessible worldwide to big companies like Unilever and Netflix. Microsoft wants to leverage its cloud computing infrastructure to profit off other organizations paying it to deliver their software, content and services.

The Link Between Windows 10 and Azure

Hooks between Microsoft Azure and Office 365 are appearing in every other Microsoft product. This is powered by talent and resources pulled from the Windows phone project. Even Bill Gates stopped using a Windows phone, according to an article on Apex Beats.

Businesses can now use Azure AD in place of Microsoft's Active Directory system, allowing businesses to control access to virtual desktops and information via any device. And it isn't difficult to transition from a Microsoft Active Directory server running on the company's Microsoft server to Microsoft Azure and AD. Windows 10 users join Azure Active Director through the built-in Work Access feature.

Can Microsoft Azure Compete Against Other Clouds?

Microsoft Azure offers services like virtual machines, application platforms, data and storage, APIs, data analytics, a platform for the internet of things, virtual networking media services, hybrid cloud integration, scheduling and automation services, identity services like Azure Active Directory and developer services. This is a rather thorough offering, but Microsoft is behind Amazon Web Services in their release. For example, Azure has a container service and Windows Server 2016 added container support, but Linux was way ahead of them in this.

One benefit of using Microsoft Azure is the Microsoft Graph feature, an API endpoint and SDK for accessing all Office 365 features and Azure AD. However, if you don't already have services in the cloud or don't want to move your re-design for that platform, there isn't much value of developing anything for Microsoft Azure. The only groups that benefit from moving to Microsoft Azure are brand new projects and those whose apps heavily rely on Microsoft's other IT infrastructure.

Microsoft's only advantages, aside from Office 365, are email and document hosting. Microsoft promises to support hybrid clouds, something lacking in both Google and AWS.

While Azure is promising, it is behind Google and Amazon in offering open source compatibility and making its services easy to move to the cloud. Its greatest potential is the promise of hybrid clouds that let companies retain more control and security for their data.