Due to an early emphasis on getting the right architecture for its Windows Azure cloud platform, which went live in February, Microsoft's cloud computing service is still missing key features that are available in the company's standalone products, said Microsoft executives at the company's 2010 Tech Ed conference, being held this week in New Orleans.
"Even though Windows Azure is being used in a wide variety of applications, there are still features missing," admitted Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's servers and tools division, in an interview. He was quick to add that Microsoft does plan to offer most of the major features still not available within 12 to 18 months.
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"This is not to say every single feature will be there [in this time frame], but the major gaps will start to close," Muglia said. He mentioned a number of features that only recently have been added to the Azure versions of Microsoft products: One is SQL Server's support of geolocation coordinates as a data type. Another is support of .Net version 4.
Other features, such as SQL Server Integration Services, have yet to be incorporated into the Azure version, however.
During a press conference on Monday, Muglia said that when approaching the cloud, Microsoft chose to focus on cloud-specific attributes such as the ability to automatically scale up to as many instances as needed, or to fail over automatically should one location go down.
"We chose to build the platform with all these attributes, even at the cost of the features that you need aren't yet available," he said.
The challenge of cloud-enabling applications involves more than simply putting the software online, Muglia explained. "When we built Windows Server Azure, we didn't just take Windows Server and host it in a data center. We asked what it would take to build a global-scale cloud platform."
As a result, the company decided to focus on making a platform that would be as scalable as possible, to give it the ability to keep multiple copies of data on hand, and to hit the other requirements that are touted as advantages of cloud computing. "We'll get a subset running first, and then we'll add features over time," he said.
Muglia pointed to the SQL Server Azure edition as an example of this approach. He noted that a single instance of SQL Server Azure is running "across thousands of computers in six data centers around the globe," he said. Nobody else has run a single database across so many distributed servers, he said.