Microsoft Azure set to capture open source revenue streams

Azure follows in Amazon's footsteps -- and other large IT vendors can't be far behind

Three weeks ago I wrote that Amazon RDS was going to eat into MySQL's revenue potential. I also pointed out that Amazon's RDS was but a precursor to future Amazon cloud service offerings for other popular open source products. While that post was centered on Amazon, it wasn't a stretch to predict that any of the big IT vendors (IBM, Microsoft, HP, Google, Cisco, EMC/VMware, and Sun/Oracle) would offer RDS-like cloud services in the future.

Well, reading details of the Windows Azure platform this week, the prediction badge no longer applies to Microsoft. According to Microsoft, Azure SQL will support MySQL, and Azure .Net Services will support Apache Tomcat. Microsoft will also support PHP and Apache Web Server on Azure. I'll focus on MySQL, and to a lesser degree Apache Tomcat for this discussion. I believe MySQL and Apache Tomcat will be the first two products offered as a service on large IT vendor cloud platforms, aside from the IT vendor's strategic software stack that is.

[ The Windows Azure cloud platform goes to commercial production early in 2010. | Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud computing in the InfoWorld editors' 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report. ]

When Amazon decided to offer MySQL via Amazon RDS, it did so without purchasing MySQL support from Sun. I've confirmed that Microsoft Azure is supporting MySQL on Azure without paying Sun for a MySQL Enterprise subscription. The logic as to why Amazon could do without a MySQL Enterprise subscription applies equally to Microsoft:

Amazon's decision to use the free version of MySQL to build RDS is completely sensible. First, Amazon has the technical skills to support their usage of MySQL without having to acquire the MySQL Enterprise subscription. Second, this decision helps Amazon lower the cost of RDS, which makes RDS more attractive to customers. This is clearly not good news for Sun/MySQL, which is missing out on capturing some portion of the revenue from MySQL users spending on RDS.

As in my previous post, I don't want this to be about Amazon or Microsoft versus Sun/MySQL.

The larger point is if Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, HP, Google, Cisco, EMC/VMware, or Oracle/Sun offer a simple and supported cloud service for running MySQL, Tomcat, JBoss, Mule, or Apache HTTP instances, what reason do customers have to acquire "enterprise subscriptions" from the vendors developing these open source projects? Until now, the value of an open source "enterprise subscription" has largely been access to support and access to administration and management tooling. In the case of MySQL, the former is provided by Amazon RDS and Azure SQL as part of the per-hour service. Again in the case of MySQL, the latter is rendered unnecessary or replicated through Amazon RDS and Azure SQL tools.

If Microsoft can find business justification to offer both a .Net runtime and Apache Tomcat runtime as a service, then I wouldn't bet on other IT vendors being solely faithful to their strategic software stack in their cloud service offerings. I expect MySQL and Apache Tomcat will be supported by a plurality of large IT vendor cloud offerings.

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