“The cloud” has been a business buzzword for years, but it’s only now that companies are fully realizing the speed, scale, and economic benefits of the cloud, and migrating their critical application infrastructure to cloud services en masse. These companies seek flexibility in how to deploy cloud services. While infrastructure as a service (IaaS) delivers the basic building blocks of enterprise services, such as storage, computing, and networking to these customers, platform as a service (PaaS) offers a more turnkey cloud environment for more automation and control. But just as rapidly as companies are adopting the cloud, the technology underpinning cloud computing is evolving even faster than ever.
What’s coming next?
Right now, the biggest technology shift in the cloud is a rapid evolution from simple virtual machine (VM) hosting toward containerization, an incredibly efficient, portable, and lightweight cloud technology that saves significant operating system overhead costs and dramatically improves application time-to-market. On top of that, we’re seeing orchestration technologies emerge for VMs and containers. This trend is starting to blur the lines between traditional IaaS and PaaS approaches to cloud computing, making it easier for customers to scale quickly and easily without sacrificing security or control.
This “blurring” is important because as more things are moved to the cloud, making them work together seamlessly is not just a “nice to have”—it’s a critical necessity. Years ago, apps were written, maintained, and tested separately in silos. Although individual apps could “talk” across the network from client to server, there was little ability to have them interface or share data with each other. Today, however, cloud apps are rapidly evolving toward a new era where they can be built, deployed, updated, and monitored holistically.
Blurring the lines between traditional IaaS and PaaS is important because as more things are moved to the cloud, making them work together seamlessly becomes a critical necessity.
At Microsoft, we’re leading the way in ensuring customers can compose cloud applications from any service we offer—from VMs to containers to virtual networks, storage, PaaS services, and more—and yet be able to develop, verify, deploy, debug, update, and monitor these cloud applications as a single holistic entity. Also, as part of our cloud consistency promise, we think these holistic cloud applications need to be able to run on-premises, in the cloud or both in “hybrid” solutions.
We are already well on our way to supporting this future with the introduction of the Azure Resource Manager. Templates in the Resource Manager enable IT staff to specify all of the individual services that their cloud application uses, and even supports configuration for each service across a virtual network. While the Azure Resource Manager processes a template, it delegates to each Azure service specified in the template, which in turn provisions, monitors, and repairs instances on behalf of the cloud application. This modular approach allows us to add support for new Azure services quickly, without requiring updates to the Azure Resource Manager itself, resulting in faster support for new services in cloud applications. Now, as a next step, we’re working on taking this approach to bring its efficiencies and power to the container space.
The cloud continues to rapidly evolve, and we are thrilled to be one of the driving forces, working with longtime partners and emerging solutions developers alike, to take cloud computing to the next level.
Our strategic vision is that IaaS and PaaS will converge. Cloud services will be so configurable that customers won’t need to decide in advance which they are purchasing so they can choose the best of both worlds “on the fly.” Although it is still early in the evolution of the cloud, we are committed to evolving with it to bring our customers the best that cloud innovation can offer.