In 2010, Microsoft launched the Windows Azure platform. Since then, Saugatuck has been actively tracking Windows Azure through regular Microsoft briefings, interviews with ISVs and with SIs that have migrated their solutions or workloads to Windows Azure or that have built natively on Windows Azure.

ISVs migrating to the Cloud and enterprise developers should understand the evolution and maturity of the Windows Azure platform, and the solutions and workloads it was designed for. Not all work well on Windows Azure. In a recently published premium Saugatuck research deliverable we provide an update and overview of the platform, and its suitability for Cloud solutions. In this Lens360 blog post, we highlight some of the takeaways from this 6-page Strategic Perspective.

Overall, significant progress has already been made, and it is important to note several important advances on the horizon for Windows Azure platform:
SQL Azure

  • 2012 will see SQL Server 2012 and SQL Azure move closer to parity, as the once-significant functionality gap continues to close.
  • 2012 will see SQL Server 2012 and SQL Azure share development tools.
  • New federated partitioning for SQL Azure provides the means to handle issues related to managing customers separately.

Windows Azure

  • System Center 2012 makes management of Azure solutions part of the overall systems management capability.

Regulatory Certifications

  • Microsoft is currently in the process of completing the SSAE 16 audit.
  • Work is also under way to deliver on HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA).
  • PCI certification, not in place today, is next on the roadmap.

At the same time, however, Windows Azure presents significant challenges to enterprise developers or to ISVs with enterprise customers migrating to the Cloud because of persistent design constraints. While we don’t have the room in this blog post to flesh these issues out in full, we discuss these in some detail in the Strategic Perspective, and what to do about it.
One area we do want to highlight is that despite considerable recent attention to achieving certifications, Windows Azure still lacks FISMA, GLBI, HIPAA, PCI, and SSAE16 – a key constraint if an enterprise or an ISV needed to store medical information or consumer credit card data, for example. While we believe many of the key certifications are on the roadmap, it takes time to fully address all of the certification issues. Stay tuned.

Complicating things further, Windows Azure is a rapidly moving target of functionality. The progress Microsoft has made in enhancing the platform continues at a fairly rapid pace. Therefore, it is important to understand the technical direction that the Windows Azure platform will take and continue to take as it evolves further. 2012 holds several very promising new additions to the Windows Azure platform, including development and testing capability.

Fortunately for migrating ISVs and enterprise developers, leading SIs such as Accenture, Avanade, Cognizant and Wipro, for example, have partnered with Microsoft to enable Windows Azure ISV workloads and solutions, and in doing so have amassed deep knowledge of the platform, its architecture and its future directions. These SIs have also developed solutions that fill in some of the gaps in the platform today.

Note: Ongoing Saugatuck subscription clients can access this premium research piece (1016MKT) by clicking here, and inputting your ID and password. Non-clients can purchase and download this premium research piece by clicking here.

This blog originally appeared at Saugatuck Lens360.