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Microsoft expands Azure cloud with help from its friends

September 29, 2015, 2:00 PM UTC
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivers a keynote address during the Microsoft Build developer conference.
Photograph by Justin Sullivan — Getty Images

Let the games begin. Again.

Microsoft (MSFT) on Tuesday announced a spate of news around its Azure cloud. The new Azure Container Service, incorporating Apache Mesos and some open-source parts from Mesosphere, a company that supports Mesos, will be in preview by the end of 2015. It also announced some preconfigured templates for its Azure Internet of things (IoT) suite. Oh, and new graphical processing computing power based on the latest Nvidia chipset that will make Azure a good home for graphics-intensive visualization and CAD/CAM applications.

In addition to its own Azure Container Service, Microsoft will support other container orchestration engines, as previously promised, including Google-backed Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, and YARN, Jason Zander, corporate vice president of Azure, told Fortune. Microsoft also offers its own scheduling engine that does much of the same work.

Technology like Mesos helps developers automate the scheduling and operation of application containers in different environments.

“We will support all of these things but we wanted a built-in Azure container service and felt that Mesos was the best answer for that,” he noted. Interestingly, Linux containers are already supported with Windows Server containers in preview now. They will be broadly available when Windows Server 2016 is out.

On the IoT front, the suite comprises a set of modules including a hub that acts as a sort of directory service for connected devices and sensors, billions of which are coming online. The pricing is variable but roughly averages out to $1.50 per device per month, a spokesman said.

Microsoft also announced its new N Series virtual machine family that builds on the latest Nvidia Grid 2.0 technology. Amazon (AMZN) Web Services, the public cloud leader, started offering graphical processing units in 2010, but Microsoft says it is the first “hyperscale provider” to offer this latest Nvidia technology. That is probably true, but some might bet that AWS will respond as soon as next week at its big AWS Re:Invent conference in Los Vegas. Maybe sooner. Many also expect Amazon to announce more bells and whistles to its container management strategy next week.

In addition, Microsoft continued to build out geographical coverage for its cloud wares, opening new India data center regions in Pune, Chennai, and Mumbai, bringing its total to 24. Azure will be online from all three sites as of Tuesday, with Office 365 coming online in October and Dynamics CRM early next year, Zander said.

What we have here is a race among three hyper-competitive hyper-scale cloud providers, Google (GOOG) being the other, to make their respective cloud the best home for the most possible jobs. The burgeoning Internet of things space, for example is heating up. Microsoft also announced a new certification program so that third parties and their customers can be assured that their sensors, software, gadgets, will work with the IoT suite.

“All the cloud players are jockeying for position in IoT. Anyone who has a lead will not have it for long,” said IDC program director Al Hilwa via email. He added, however, that Microsoft’s strong database credentials and expanding big data capabilities should make it a formidable power here.

For more on Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella’s vision, check out his interview with Fortune.

And for still more on Microsoft’s cloud plans, see the video below.


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