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What Ray Ozzie didn't tell you about Microsoft Azure

Behind the whiteboard of confusion

The essential guide to IT transformation

Fail and You Unveiled earlier this month at Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference by Chief Whiteboard Operator Ray Ozzie, the Azure Services Platform confused damn near everyone. But after days of collaboration with the top minds in both industry and academia, El Reg is proud to announce that we have finally figured out what Microsoft Azure is.

The Azure Services Platform is a clusterfuck of software that can be broken down into four basic parts: Windows Azure, .NET Services, SQL Services, and Live Services. To get a general idea of what each is, you should probably read the sixteen-page white paper. It is designed to compete with Amazon's Web Services and Google's App Engine - that is, once it gets over one slight hitch: tl;dr.

The Four Letters of the Apocalypse

tl;dr stands for “too long; didn't read,” and it is going to change communication as we know it. Product managers at both Amazon and Google have figured out what tl;dr means to their respective businesses, but the idea is clearly lost on Microsoft. When a developer is evaluating different hosted computing platforms for his next application, the merits of each one are decided by how well they are explained:

Amazon EC2: We have a lot of servers, and we run Xen on them. You get virtual machines.

Google App Engine: Run your Python code on our machines. You can use our scalable database, too, but you need to learn how it works.

Microsoft Azure: OK, so first there's this operating system called Windows Azure that your apps are going to run on and will also be your development environment. There's some data storage that goes along with that, but it's not very useful, so we have the SQL Service. That doesn't really give you SQL, but something sorta similar. Ignore it for now. Still with me? There's also .NET Services that lets you connect applications together somehow, and Live Services because we needed something to keep Ray Ozzie busy. Wrap that all up, tape it together with some C# programming, and that's the platform.

Fortunately for Microsoft, decision makers don't choose a hosted application platform based on specifications. They choose based on the number of stock photos of clouds and the amount of sans-serif blue typeface you have on your webpage. In that regard, Redmond is the clear winner.

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