Microsoft serves up an Azure feast but IT pros aren't eating it up

Microsoft made it abundantly clear that Azure will be the engine that drives all mission critical initiatives for the foreseeable future.

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HOUSTON -- Microsoft served up a soup-to-nuts feast of new products and technologies this week to inspire more corporate IT interest in its vision of the cloud-based enterprise.

The question remains: how many of those corporate users are ready to chow down?

The company showed at its annual TechEd conference a number of new products and services it plans to roll out over the next six months to make it easier to connect on-premises products with the public cloud, as well as integrate and share data among public and hybrid clouds and across applications and services.

Microsoft made it abundantly clear that Azure, its cloud environment, along with a range of other cloud-based products and services will be the engine that drives all mission critical initiatives for the foreseeable future.

“A growing number of users armed with a growing number of connected devices are creating the amount of data until recently we thought was unimaginable," said Brad Anderson, Microsoft Corporate vice president. "Our goal is to bring all this data together and the best place to do it in the cloud."

But more than a few of the attendees here felt bludgeoned by the cloud message, saying they weren’t ready to even consider implementing some of the new cloud-based products and technologies or hoped Microsoft would address other more nuts-and-bolts problems they face daily.

"There hasn't been much talk about going to the cloud," said Jeff Burke, system center administrator, The Vincit Group, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Burke feels his business environment is too small at this time. "Maybe five years down the road, but right now we're using Internet-based clients and have several remote offices that connect to a high-speed Internet connection and [a VPN]. There is no need for it."

Others see cloud as a move they'd make if starting from scratch.

"If it's greenfield it makes sense [to deploy the cloud]," said Steven Hosking, a consultant engineer from Vigilant IT in Australia. It is much harder to retrofit an existing environment to accommodate a public cloud like Azure, he noted.

Two show attendees were more blunt and succinct in their appraisal of Microsoft’s message: “Too much cloud.”

What's new with Azure

Not all attendees were disappointed by the landslide of cloud news, particularly the new products and services around Azure which are intended to make the cloud environment more attractive to reluctant corporate buyers. Some of those available now include:

Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute that permits the creation of private connections between Azure and on-premises environments; Microsoft Azure Files improves cloud storage by allowing a single file share from multiple virtual machines; the availability of compute-intensive virtual machines sizes in region and cross-region virtual networking connections. In addition, Azure API Management improves the sharing of information among departments and creates a new business model by exposing APIs through the cloud.

Microsoft's laser focus on cloud is a good sign for Andre Garcia, assistant vice president of infrastructure for ABM, a building services company based in Houston. He especially appreciated Microsoft’s attempts to seamlessly bridge the delta that exists between public and hybrid clouds.

“We are excited about it because that for us that is the missing piece -- having the multiple VLAN," Garcia said." And we're looking at it as isolated VLANs and being able to implement the site to VPNs, that is the secret sauce. That's the piece that was missing.”

Other products and services aimed at larger corporate accounts to be delivered over the next few months, mostly having to do with disaster recovery and security, include:

Microsoft Azure Site Recovery, the preview of which is scheduled for next month; a preview version of Microsoft Antimalware for Azure that users can install for both cloud and virtual machines; new security services to be jointly developed with Symantec and Trend Micro; and new encryption technologies for Office 365 business users coming in July that ensure every file stored in SharePoint Online and One Drive for Business is encrypted with its own key.

Microsoft will also release a preview this week of its Microsoft Azure RemoteApp that lets mobile employees access Windows applications across several different devices.

The product, which works hand-in glove with Azure, combines the company’s Remote Desktop Services. The service allows enterprises with investments in Windows apps to deliver those apps to non-Windows devices, Anderson said.  Currently Azure Remote App supports iOS, Android and Windows clients with Windows RT and other platform support due in the future.

Microsoft provided no dates for general availability of the new service.

Still, one IT administrator said he was somewhat interested.

"I would do a hybrid [version]," said Nick Vannice, systems administrator for Muckleshoot Casino, based in Auburn, Washington. Vannice said he can see how the technology could be deployed for those in different regions.

Assistant Editor Jeremy Stanley contributed to this report.

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