Microsoft on Monday announced what it called a "significant milestone" with the release of Windows Azure and SQL Azure in 21 countries. That means customers and partners can launch their Windows Azure and SQL Azure production applications and services with a full service-level agreement.
Windows Azure is a cloud-services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand computing and storage to host, scale and manage web applications through Microsoft data centers.
"We're hearing great feedback from those who are developing and deploying applications and services across the Windows Azure platform," said Doug Hauger, general manager of business and marketing for Windows Azure. He said thousands of customers have moved into production and can begin selling solutions.
Windows Azure in Action
Microsoft's partners include large and small enterprises. Hauger pointed to a startup called Lokad as an example of a Microsoft BizSpark One partner that's betting on the Windows Azure platform. Lokad delivers forecasts as a service, targeting the retail and manufacturing companies that need to optimize inventory.
As Hauger explained it, Lokad developed a new set of statistical models that deliver accurate forecasts. But the company soon realized its complex models require 10 times more processing power than earlier iterations. That posed a problem: The company couldn't maintain its previous one-hour delivery goal for forecasts.
"Lokad moved their forecasting service to the Windows Azure platform to take advantage of the scalable processing power," Hauger said. "They now have the ability to deliver 100 times more forecasts with Windows Azure than they could previously -- up to 100 million forecasts an hour."
The Oscaro Case Study
Using the Windows Azure platform, Hauger said Lokad can compute and deliver forecast data in less than 60 minutes to its entire 300-plus growing customer base, including multinational retailers.
European e-commerce company Oscaro.com was the first customer to work with Lokad's Azure-empowered service. The company has more than 300,000 product references in store, with plans to upgrade to one million product references during 2010. With a high sales volume, Hauger said, Oscaro has a higher need to update data forecasts.
Microsoft Cloud Chances
The success story highlights the promise of Azure. But can Microsoft Windows Azure find success in the cloud? It needs to. According to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, Azure is critical to Microsoft's future.
"This is Microsoft's forward-looking product as Windows Server and Windows itself goes through its inevitable product cycle. Azure is the product that's supposed to start picking up the slack as more and more of things work up to the web," Enderle said. "Microsoft's future is increasingly tied to Azure, and that's what makes this product incredibly important for the company."