Microsoft has had its own bustle of announcements. Earlier this month the company announced a handful of new features that are generally available, and others in preview. These include: new capabilities for secure connections between on-premises data and the company's cloud-based big data analytics tools, Power BI and Azure Machine Learning; new Azure Site Recovery backup features that allow VMs to be backed up to the service without using Windows Systems Center VM Manager; and new Active Directory compatibility that allows the cloud-based system to authenticate on-premises apps. All of these play to Microsoft's strength of being a hybrid cloud computing platform.
Perhaps most exciting for many Microsoft customers though will be new Azure SQL Database features which will make the cloud-based system almost fully compatible with SQL Server engine. Combined with new premium storage capacity designed to support I/O intensive workloads, Mueller says Microsoft is making Azure "ready for primetime."
Gartner analyst Kyle Hilgendorf says Azure still has a ways to go to catch AWS, but he says there are increasingly compelling reasons customers have chosen Azure over AWS. After another year of advancements to its platform, Azure could turn into a highly competent cloud offering.
AWS isn't sitting on the sidelines. Week after week after week the company updates some aspect of its cloud platform. Recently, for example, it restructured its Reserved Instance pricing, allowing customers to lock in lower rates for its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) servers if they commit to a long-term contract - this is actually how many enterprise companies are used to buying services from IT vendors. The company also has announced new features for managing on-premises workloads through its OpsWorks tool, it launched new Glacier cold storage pricing, and it updated it streaming analytics service Kenesis. That's not to mention the groundbreaking new features it rolled out at re:Invent, including an industry-first computational computing platform named Lamdba.
"AWS still has a huge lead," Mueller says. IBM and Microsoft are keeping the pressure on though. And 2015 will be a whole new year.
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