What is Windows Azure Pack?

Takeshi EtoThrough our chats with people at Code Camps, from the sales questions that come in and from the partners and vendors we interact with, we’ve heard the question “What is Windows Azure Pack” many times, so I wanted to address the question here.

What is Windows Azure Pack?

Windows Azure Pack (WAP) is a collection of Microsoft Azure technologies that Microsoft is making available to Microsoft partners. It’s not the entire Microsoft Azure back end and it’s not the new stuff in beta or preview. WAP encompasses some of the more mature and tested portions of the Microsoft Azure technologies – it has to be mature since Microsoft will need to support it if they are giving it to partners.

As of today, Windows Azure Pack includes management of websites, virtual machines, databases, service bus, virtual networks, and a management portal.

A Windows Azure Pack implementation does not run on Microsoft Azure and it doesn’t mean that the partner is reselling Microsoft Azure. Windows Azure Pack is software that is used along with Windows Server, System Center and MS SQL for cloud hosting deployments and runs inside the partner’s data center. So WAP is a new technology suite that allows partners to run Azure cloud technologies on-premises.

Why would Microsoft give away their own hosting technologies?

That’s a good question. If you had proprietary technology that ran a cloud hosting platform and it was making you money, why would you give that same technology over to other companies? Isn’t it a competitive advantage? Luckily, Microsoft is not so short-sighted.

First Microsoft knows that all enterprise customers are not going to move all the stuff they run on-premises over to Microsoft Azure. And they understand that it would be better for Microsoft to help enterprise companies to cloud enable their own on-premises infrastructure and this would be the best way to help facilitate more hybrid cloud deployments – those deployments that may use both on-premises and Microsoft Azure and other public clouds to function.

Second, Microsoft knows that they will never own 100% of the hosting market. In fact, at the 2014 Microsoft Worldwide Conference this week it was stated that Azure hosts over 300,000 active websites, and as we pointed out in a recent blog post, the Internet is getting close to having 1 billion websites.  You can do the math on the Azure market share.

The bottom line is that the hosting market is large and fragmented. If getting the most reach with Microsoft technologies is important (and it is very important to them), Microsoft needs to enable other service providers and other SaaS partners to adopt their latest cloud O/S and adopt cloud deployments. WAP helps standardize this effort and helps accelerate the speed to market for cloud solutions based on Microsoft technologies.

How does Everleap use Windows Azure Pack?

For Everleap we used the websites portion of Windows Azure Pack to power the underlying cloud and elastic scalability of our infrastructure.

We chose to focus on websites as that is what we’ve been doing over at DiscountASP.NET for the last decade, but on a Windows shared hosting platform. With Everleap we offer website hosting and web application hosting on an elastic cloud platform.

Instead of using the management portal that came with WAP out of the box, we chose to build our own control  panel. Mainly because of the kind of issues that we’ve seen other hosts have with third party hosting automation and control panel systems in the past. Because a third party vendor has to satisfy all of their partners needs, most of the features enhancements are prioritized to help as many partners as possible. Which makes perfect sense for the control panel vendor. But the features needed for the largest number of users may not be features that are needed by a particular hosting provider’s niche. We wanted the freedom and ability to move forward with enhancements that meet the needs of our customers without waiting for someone else to consider those needs important.

At the same time, we wanted to flatten the learning curve required to cloud enable your websites. So we designed our control panel to feel familiar to anyone who has managed a site at a traditional host. We’ve integrated domain name management, DNS services, email services, and SSL certificates management into the control panel – all the services that you would expect in a hosting account but are typically not provided (not for free, anyway) by the big clouds.

What is the future of Windows Azure Pack?

This is something that can really only be answered by Microsoft. But according to what Scott Guthrie and other Microsoft executives have stated publicly, they plan to continue to evolve Windows Azure Pack and to continue to add more Microsoft Azure technologies to WAP. We’ll continue to work closely with Microsoft and stay informed on all the new stuff coming to WAP, and of course we’ll work hard to deliver the features and enhancements to meet the needs of our customers.


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