Mary Jo Foley recently posted Can Microsoft Save Windows Azure? on RedmondMag.com. Obviously the title is geared more toward grabbing your attention, but the article has some good content.
One paragraph caught my attention in particular:
Starting around March this year, Microsoft is slated to make some very noticeable changes to Windows Azure. That’s when the company will begin testing with customers its persistent virtual machine that will allow users to run Windows Server, Linux(!), SharePoint and SQL Server on Windows Azure — functionality for which many customers have been clamoring. This means that Microsoft will be, effectively, following in rival Amazon’s footsteps and adding more Infrastructure as a Service components to a platform that Microsoft has been touting as pure PaaS. [highlight added]
Why is Microsoft pushing more IaaS into Azure? In a word: Adoption. Microsoft needs to increase the Azure adoption rate. Far more people in IT organizations know how to participate in IaaS than PaaS. They already know to install and configure Windows Server, SharePoint and even some of the myriad Linuxes. Many already contract out their power and internet access to hosting companies, etc. Running a VM on Azure (or RackSpace, Amazon, etc.) is a natural next-step.
Stepping into PaaS, however, is a much larger step. Designing and implementing software for any platform always requires more time, and almost always involves more people. By way of analogy, consider two word processing applications: Microsoft Word and Apple Pages. Pages only works on Apple operating systems. To run Pages on the Windows operating system (if Apple so desired) would require a great deal of time and cost. Microsoft has developed Word for both Windows and Apple operating systems – at great expense of time and money.
So, companies IaaS uptake tends to be faster than PaaS. In fact, some companies will only engage in IaaS and SaaS, but that’s a separate story. In order for Azure’s adoption rate to continue, it needs to open the door for more IaaS adopters.