Windows Azure is part of the Microsoft "stack" - the suite of software and services we offer. Because we have so many products in almost every part of technology, it's hard to know everything about all parts of what we do - even for those of us who work here. So it's no surprise that some folks are not as familiar with Windows and SQL Azure as they are, say Windows Server or XBox.
As I chat with folks about a solution for a business or organization need, I put Windows Azure into the mix. I always start off with "What do you already know about Windows Azure?" so that I don't bore folks with information they already have. I some cases they've checked out the product ahead of time and have specific questions, in others they aren't as familiar, and in still others there is a fair amount of mis-information. Sometimes that's because of a marketing failure, sometimes it's hearsay, and somtetimes it's active misinformation.
I thought I might lay out a few of these misconceptions. As always - do your fact-checking! Never take anyone's word alone (including mine) as gospel. Make sure you educate yourself on your options. Your company or your clients depend on you to have the right information on IT, so make sure you live up to that.
Myth 1: Nobody uses Windows Azure
It's true that we don't give out numbers on the amount of clients on Windows and SQL Azure. But lots of folks are here - companies you may have heard of like Boeing, NASA, Fujitsu, The City of London, Nuedesic, and many others. I deal with firms small and large that use Windows Azure for mission-critical applications, sometimes totally on Windows and/or SQL Azure, sometimes in conjunction with an on-premises system, sometimes for only a specific component in Windows Azure like storage.
The interesting thing is that many sites you visit have a Windows Azure component, or are running on Windows Azure. They just don't announce it. Just like the other cloud providers, the companies have asked to be completely branded themselves - they don't want you to be aware or care that they are on Windows Azure. Sometimes that's for security, other times it's for different reasons. It's just like the web sites you visit. For the most part, they don't advertise which OS or Web Server they use. It really just shouldn't matter. The point is that they just use what works to solve a given problem.
Check out a few public case studies here: https://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/home/case-studies/
Myth 2: It's only for Microsoft stuff - can't use Open Source
This is the one I face the most, and am the most dismayed by. We work just fine with many open source products, including Java, NodeJS, PHP, Ruby, Python, Hadoop, and many other languages and applications. You can quickly deploy a WordPress, Umbraco and other "kits". We have software development kits (SDK's) for iPhones, iPads, Android, Windows phones and more. We have an SDK to work with FaceBook and other social networks.
In short, we play well with others.
More on the languages and runtimes we support here: https://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/develop/overview/
More on the SDK's here: http://www.wadewegner.com/2011/05/windows-azure-toolkit-for-ios/, http://www.wadewegner.com/2011/08/windows-azure-toolkits-for-devices-now-with-android/, http://azuretoolkit.codeplex.com/
Myth 3: Microsoft expects me to switch everything to "the cloud"
No, we don't. That would be disasterous, unless the only things you run in your company uses works perfectly in Azure. Use Windows Azure - or any cloud for that matter - where it works.
Whenever I talk to companies, I focus on two things:
- Something that is broken and needs to be re-architected
- Something you want to do that is new
If something is broken, and you need new tools to scale, extend, add capacity dynamically and so on, then you can consider using Windows or SQL Azure. It can help solve problems that you have, or it may include a component you don't want to write or architect yourself.
Sometimes you want to do something new, like extend your company's offerings to mobile phones, to the web, or to a social network.
More info on where it works here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/buckwoody/archive/2011/01/18/windows-azure-and-sql-azure-use-cases.aspx
Myth 4: I have to write code to use Windows and SQL Azure
If Windows Azure is a PaaS - a Platform as a Service - then don't you have to write code to use it?
Windows and SQL Azure are made up of various components. Some of those components allow you to write and deploy code (like Compute) and others don't. We have lots of customers using Windows Azure storage as a backup, to securely share files instead of using DropBox, to distribute videos or code or firmware, and more. Others use our High Performance Computing (HPC) offering to rent a supercomputer when they need one. You can even throw workloads at that using Excel!
In addition there are lots of other components in Windows Azure you can use, from the Windows Azure Media Services to others. More here: https://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/home/scenarios/saas/
Myth 5: Windows Azure is just another form of "vendor lock-in"
Windows Azure uses .NET, OSS languages and standard interfaces for the code. Sure, you're not going to take the code line-for-line and run it on a mainframe, but it's standard code that you write, and can port to something else.
And the data is yours - you can bring it back whever you want. It's either in text or binary form, that you have complete control over.
There are no licenses - you can "pay as you go", and when you're done, you can leave the service and take all your code, data and IP with you.
So go out there, read up, try it. Use it where it works. And don't believe everything you hear - sometimes the Internet doesn't get it all correct. :)