Azure: IaaS or PaaS? Cloud Computing

“It’s a double edged sword,” O’Brien said in an interview with Network World :

The reason people like infrastructure-as-a-service is because it’s programming model agnostic. The bare metal VM doesn’t care what language you wrote the application in, it doesn’t matter what tools you use and what runtimes you’ve targeted. If it runs on Windows or Linux, give it a virtual machine and it will run just fine. The problem is it’s a lot of extra work. You are responsible for that virtual machine the same way you’re responsible for a server sitting under your desk. You’re responsible for turning it on. You’re responsible for turning it off. You’re responsible for applying the a patch or update. If Red Hat applies a Linux patch, and you have a (customized) Linux VM running on Amazon [rather than an Amazon-maintained Amazon Machine Image], you have to apply that patch yourself. They won’t do that for you.

But, O’Brian says, there are shortcomings in the platform-as-a-service model as well. The biggest problem with PaaS may be difficulty migrating existing applications from the internal data center to the cloud:

Platform-as-a-service has a different set of tradeoffs. All of that stuff is completely abstracted away, it’s a friction-free development, you basically code up an application, you hit deploy and it’ll go run on the platform that’s supplied by those runtimes. So in our case its PHP, C Sharp, in the case of Google [App Engine] it [may be] Python and Java.

While building new applications is easy, and removes the need for owning internal hardware and software, other than a Web browser, “part of the challenge there is it’s not necessarily optimal for migrating existing applications,” O’Brian says.

Nonetheless, Microsoft has already announced that “at some point [in the next 12 months] we will be offering the ability to provision a bare-metal VM, and run your application on that,” according to O’Brien.

O’Brien also believes that just as Microsoft moves into IaaS, Amazon will build a PaaS offering that more closely resembles Azure than anything that Amazon offers today.

Microsoft’s goal in the cloud is to offer customers the same functionality they would expect if they installed the software themselves, he said. “If you can write an app for Windows Server you should be able to write an app for Windows Azure,” O’Brien said.



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