Bloggers roundtable discussion with Microsoft’s Zane Adams

November 22, 2010 — 1 Comment

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to a bloggers roundtable discussion with Microsoft Azure and middleware general manager Zane Adams. Zane previously held the position of senior director of virtualization strategy at Microsoft.

I was looking forward to learning more about Azure and Microsoft’s strategy as being a bit of a VMware fan boy I probably didn’t know as I much as I should have.

If you would like to learn more about Azure I can recommended taking a read through the material on their resources page of their website

I was joined with several other bloggers including Chris Dearden and Chris Evans and a number of Microsoft employees including Microsoft Evangelist Andrew Fryer we had 1 hour of Zane’s time, the discussion was started by Zane with some background, the cloud vision and Azure. Chris and I were both particularly interested in the future of the IT Pro and Partners.

Zane Adams has been with Microsoft for around 12 years, starting off in Marketing, moving onto high performance computing, virtualization then his current role in Azure. Zane believes all of his previous roles have been in preparation for his current role at Microsoft. Cloud will shift the way we think about computing, the next generation in 5 – 10 years will not think of IT in the same way we do today. Virtualization was big this is bigger, Zane feels like he has won the lottery being able to play a such a significant part in this historical change.  The reasons for moving to cloud isn’t just opex and capex, Zane uses the example of an airline being able to introduce remote check in for passengers, not only gives them an advantage of allowing the customers to check in quicker but gives better customer services. When the airline wants to introduce this they could do it by investing in an infrastructure that is sized for all seasons, by using Azure they need only pay for what they use.

A lot of large companies were saying to Microsoft they want Azure but they want it on premises, in June / July Microsoft announced Azure appliance in partnership with Dell, HP, Fujitsu, the infrastructure is still managed by Microsoft but on your premises, this first customer will be Ebay, then it will be rolled out. It still the cloud just running at your data centres rather than at Microsoft’s, it will still be managed by Microsoft the same as Azure in the cloud, this will also give partners the opportunity to have Azure data centres.

Microsoft are doing more than just purchasing large amounts of servers to get bulk discounts, Microsoft want 1 admin to 4-5000 servers, this only comes through innovation, automation, self healing, the fabric controller is what delivers this. Software is the key in cloud computing.

Zane used to be an IT Consultant, when he was doing consulting there was massive changes in IT. In the last 10 years who knew about virtualization and the wide spread use of SANs, people that work in IT are used to the change, cloud is going to be a big change, there are still going to be developers, developing, there still are going to be IT admins especially in huge data centres. There is going to be a consulting role working with customers on strategy, connectivity interconnectivity and interoperation between clouds and applications. This isn’t going to happen over night, this is a journey, roles will change along with the journey. There will still be the necessity for local data centres especially in large organisations.

Onto a few of the questions

Gabrie (Via Email) – With SQL Azure what kind of SQL database can it hold, can I move my existing DB straight into Azure. There are a number of tools that will allow you to move your existing data into SQL Azure. There is a limit of 50Gb per database at the moment, so if you database is bigger than this it will need to be shard into smaller databases. There are also tools for non MS-SQL data imports.

(Unknown) What happens when you need replication of data for DR perspective, this may not be available now and maybe on the road map, but road maps are very short in the cloud, you will be able to select that you want a replication of your data, you don’t have to worry about how that is completed, that’s the beauty of the cloud.

Me – Authentication in cloud, how will authentication in the cloud work when there are multiple vendors, are users going to have to end up authenticating with each application. Zane, it will be a journey, with Fabric Azure services OAuth and ADFS are already supported. Already in the CTP you are able to connect your on premise identities to your applications you write in the cloud, so there is no need to authenticate after login of your desktop with the Azure based applications. There is a Windows identity framework inside the federation services that allows other vendors to tie into authentication using standard protocols such as OAuth.

Chris Dearden – Whilst cloud looks cheap in the short term over a long term period it doesn’t look so cost effective over private cloud. You need to ensure you are looking at the complete picture not just the cost to purchase a server, this includes administration, power etc etc. There will be times when cloud isn’t cost effective at the moment and there will be times where it is. It need’s to be monitored and as it progresses tweaks to the costs maybe made.

(Unknown) In the early 90’s a lot of application providers were trying to do a similar thing, what makes Microsoft think this is going to work where it didn’t before – Microsoft aren’t the only people backing this, Google, Amazon, VMware etc are all in. Previous models were about scale and not software and IP, the industry was going ahead of the curve in the 90’s. The cloud revolution that is happening now is bringing invention, automation, cost savings all together to offer a complete change in IT.

Craig Stewart – VirtualPro (Via Email) – How does Microsoft’s vision of the cloud compare to it’s competitors – Most competitors are taking today’s technologies, taking a bunch of servers filling data centres and selling it as a service (IaaS), not all but most. Microsoft is taking a billion dollar approach writing operating systems and application models from scratch and then scale out and combine with purchasing large amounts of hardware etc. Then there are companies like Google that are taking the platform as a service approach, they are unable to offer a service that is end to end. There are already over 5million people programming on Windows and a migration to Azure is a natural progression. Microsoft aren’t just IaaS they are PaaS as well it is elastic and scalable. Very few competitors are investing the same in data centres as well as IP, some are not even investing in data centres. Microsoft also have a very wide offering with Office Online, Exchange and CRM online etc etc no one else have a breathe as far a Microsoft.

Chris Evans – What sort of Software has Microsoft been working on that allows the environment to scale that end users can’t do them selves. – Zane I’m not really the best person to ask, Fabric Azure is a key part that manages things from cooling to the containers etc. Software has written software to handle all elements, failover etc, the innovation we have in Azure will end up in Windows Servers, SQL server etc. Innovation is faster in the cloud, boot from VHD came from the cloud. Some innovation in Azure won’t make sense on premises so won’t by bought into the end user products. Some elements from the Windows Azure app fabric are now available in the Windows Server app fabric in CTP and we will see more of this happening as time goes on. We are a software company and pushing these technologies out to customers is what we are about.

As a consumer of cloud service, the anxiety of how cloud is built, what speed are my spindles etc will go away, if you are still thinking about that you are still in the infrastructure world. When you plug in something to the electricity you don’t think how many generators are close to my house etc, the same will happen with cloud.


As i didn’t really know a lot about Azure prior to the round table discussion it was very eye opening as to the path Microsoft are taking to the cloud, I think ultimately PaaS makes  sense as to the way we are going to see the Cloud reach it goals over the next few years (which vendors will be the winners is yet to be seen), with developers able to build on the platform and consumers able to consume said applications in the cloud, it will scale without you being concerned over the underlying infrastructure and allow you to pay for what you need.

There will for a long time be a reason to have IaaS, in my opinion it offers companies maybe smaller companies the easiest way to move to the cloud as there is no need for your application to be we-written for you on a PaaS especially where the applications aren’t written in house, In longer terms there will still be the need for IaaS where PaaS may not offer a solution that is bespoke or customisable enough to allow the facilities you need and this is where IaaS will allow you to create you own bespoke solutions.

It certainly is an exciting time in the IT industry and it is going to be interesting to see how it finally pan’s out. I think the Azure platform will make sense for a lot of people looking to move specific elements into the cloud, by offering the tools you are already used in your environment. I think there are still a lot of questions to be answered and a lot more innovation before we see the cloud as mainstream within IT, but it is obvious that cloud is happening and it will be interesting to see how all the different solutions pan out.

The whole session was recording, I will let you know if this ends up online.

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