Not everyone will play
With any new technology trend, there are early adopters and late adopters. Cloud offerings enjoy economies of scale and the ability to let you focus on the things that drive profits or productivity. But they also add the extra element of a perceived loss of control that unnerves many who are usually in the early adopter camp.
There can also be cultural and political factors that can influence adoption. One great example playing out currently is the attitude change in Germany toward all things cloud that are not hosted and owned locally. After talking to a number of business decision-makers in Germany, it appears that the NSA hacking scandal has shaken faith that data stored in the cloud is safe.
Privacy is a different concept in most of Europe than it is in the United States, and that means that it might be a while before Europe sees the kind of cloud adoption (with Microsoft, Amazon or any U.S.-based provider) that is ramping up now. To address this reality on the ground, Core Data Cloud in England has “been very busy helping companies in the U.K. have their cloud and keep it local too.” Core Data specializes in storage services such as backup, but Laflotte says that we can likely expect Europe to see many niche cloud companies like this emerge there while cloud consolidates somewhat in the U.S.
A potential remedy to this problem comes from a bill being proposed by U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch, Chris Coons and Dean Heller. This bill would protect cloud providers like Microsoft so that they don’t need not store data if doing so violates the law of the country where it is stored. (More information is available about the bill here.) If this bill becomes law, it would be the best way to remedy the lack of trust, but I would not expect its effects to be instant in any case.
Some of the Azure capabilities that seem the most out of place could be the ones that make all the difference in the world. Described earlier as packages, they each solve a problem by providing tools and the platform for those tools, along with immense scalability. The most obvious example of this is the HDInsight implementation of Hadoop available on Azure. To get Hadoop capabilities, Microsoft adapted the Hortonworks implementation to run both in Azure as the HDInsight Service and as Microsoft HDInsight Server for Windows.
Machine Learning is another prime example of one of these packages. When this came out, it was a much bigger surprise than seeing a Hadoop solution on Azure, even though it made great sense for Microsoft to enable organizations with this technology.
The reason Machine Learning is so strategic is the direction that the Web is taking as it moves toward what some are calling the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web consists of sites that understand circumstance and can adapt them for the user based on sophisticated analysis. This is where Machine Learning comes into the picture, but until now organizations had to have deep specialization with dedicated scientists to use it.
Microsoft bringing Machine Learning to Azure has gone a long way to democratizing these capabilities, meaning that much smaller organizations can bring much more sophisticated solutions to users. Bustamante pointed out that “Azure also has strong offerings with Service Bus, Media Services, Mobile Services and more.” She added that, “holistically, I view Azure as the approachable cloud: deeply useful features but easier to work with overall.”
Finding these packages needs to be easy, and of course what platform these days would be complete without a marketplace? And so, Microsoft recently debuted the initial batch of partners to provide their wares on the Azure Marketplace. This is not the same thing as the App Store, but close in concept. The Marketplace allows vendors to place their solutions on display with the hope that, since these solutions make use of Azure VMs, Storage or other services, they will help drive Azure adoption and revenue.