How is Windows Azure doing? Few mission critical apps says Microsoft

I attended an online briefing given by Azure marketing man Prashant Ketkar. He said that Microsoft is planning to migrate its own internal systems to Azure, “causing re-architecture of apps,” and spoke of the high efficiency of the platform. There are thousands of servers being managed by very few people he said – if you visit a Microsoft datacenter, “you will be struck by the absence of people.” Some of the efficiency is thanks to what he called a “containerised model”, where a large number of servers is delivered in a unit with all the power, networking and cooling systems already in place. “Just add water, electricity and bandwidth,”, he said, making it sound a bit like an instant meal from the supermarket.

But how is Azure doing? I asked for an indication of how many apps were deployed on Azure, and statistics for data traffic and storage. “For privacy and security reasons we don’t disclose the number of apps that are running on the platform,” he said, though I find that rationale hard to understand. He did add that there are more than 10,000 subscribers and said it is “growing pretty rapidly,” which is marketing speak for “we’re not saying.”

I was intrigued though by what Ketkar said about the kinds of apps that are being deployed on Azure. “No enterprise is talking about taking a tier one mission critical application and moving it to the cloud,” he said. “What we see is a lot of marketing campaigns, we see a lot of spiky workloads moving to the cloud. As the market start to get more and more comfortable, we will see the adoption patterns change.”

I also asked whether Microsoft has any auto-scaling features along the lines of Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk planned. Apparently it does. After acknowledging that there is no such feature currently in the platform, though third-party solutions are available, he said that “we are working on truly addressing the dynamic scaling issues – that is engineering work that is in progress currently.”