This past month I found myself traveling between Florida and Austin, Texas for HostingCon only to return two weeks later to Houston, Texas for Microsoft WPC. What did I learn? The barbecue is better in Austin and contrary to what we’ve come to believe from watching Lone Wolf McQuade as a impressionable teenager, Lone Star Beer doesn’t give you super hero style super powers (unless you’re Chuck Norris).
HostingCon and hot topics in the Hosting Industry
HostingCon is one of my favorite events because it brings the entire Web Hosting / Cloud Hosting industry together and we’re able to learn from each other. What was the big takeaway from HostingCon? Yeah.. the cloud. This year though I found it interesting the number of vendors supporting Hyper-V as a hypervisor. For instance, OpenStack (which is finally starting to mature into a production ready solution) even supports Hyper-V as an underlying Hypervisor. The other big takeaway from HostingCon is that the cloud isn’t something that’s coming, it’s something that’s here and every web host is now a cloud hosting provider and they’ve all stood up cloud environments be it PaaS or IaaS. It was also interesting to see the number of software vendors that are turning to monthly based licensing instead of perpetual licensing and almost all web based applications are being offered with hosting integrated. I’m torn on whether this is a perfect solution or not and believe it’s basically a ‘which shoe fits best’ scenario where it ultimately depends on what you plan to do with your application as to which solution is the better fit.
At HostingCon I also had the opportunity for the second year in a row to speak on a panel. This year’s panel was around developers and cloud and the challenges they face and the best practices that service providers like Applied Innovations, utilize to meet their needs and help developers overcome their challenges.
Microsoft WPC and the Microsoft Focus for FY14
Then it was back to Florida for a couple weeks only to head back out to Texas again. This time though is was Houston. At WPC all of the buzz was once again .. Cloud but this time it was fully Microsoft focused around Azure and the Cloud OS (Windows Server, System Center and Azure). Many people are aware Microsoft has three cloud offerings: the Platform as a Service (Paas), their new Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and even their shared cloud hosting offering Windows Azure Websites. What many people don’t realize is that Microsoft is very much a partner-centric company has been so for several years and just like they did with their operating system, they’re doing with their cloud initiatives and closely integrating it with their partners. For example, their Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering today is not some secret Microsoft solution, it’s built using the same tools that we build our own Hyper-V based cloud servers, using System Center and Windows Server and much of the improvements found in Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 and virtualization come from what Microsoft has gleaned from their own offering. In fact, Microsoft makes available, as the Windows Azure Pack (WAP), the same automation layer and customer facing user interface so that any one can deploy this same technology on-premise. In the next version (currently in beta and we’re currently participating in the beta) it’s also bringing some of the services that previously were only available in Azure to on-prem for example the Azure Service Bus can now be run on-prem as well as in Azure. We’ll be releasing a customer facing beta of this very soon and will be looking for your feedback on it to see if this is a service offering you’d like to have delivered. But you’re probably wondering why we’d look at offering a solution that’s similar to what Microsoft is offering on Azure in fact, identical in many respects. It’s actually quite simple.
While at WPC I had the opportunity to talk with a number of our AwesomeCloud partners as well as ISV’s, MSP’s, SI’s and VAR’s and really understand their needs for the cloud. What I found most interesting is the number of these vendors that have shied away from solutions like EC2 and Azure for solutions like those provided by Applied Innovations and awesomecloud.com. What I heard time and time again is that the solutions from the massive cloud vendors are simply too wide in breadth and not business focused. That the customer finds themselves doing things they’d rather not have to do and that ultimately it’s impacting their ability to deliver service to their internal or external customers. The other issue was with the lack of a defined SLA, no technical support and finding it difficult to implement compliance. They simply are losing deals and opting for either self hosted or partner hosted instead. You see these partners are very much like the AppliedI / ACS customers of today, they are looking for a partner to deliver best in class services that they can build on top of and not have to reinvent the wheel. As one partner explained it to me several years ago “Jess, I hire you to do what you do, so I don’t have to do it and I can focus on my building value for my customers doing what I do.” Does this mean Azure and EC2 should pack it in? Not at all as there’s always a place for a commodity service offering that’s focused on low cost. This too is a ‘which shoe fits best’ scenario. Are you focused on the lowest cost solution possible and willing to take on those added duties and tasks that come with a solution like that or are you looking for a more full service solution like our server concierge managed cloud servers?
At the end of the day, I believe the work Microsoft is doing around Azure will benefit all of us and I believe as Applied Innovations (and AwesomeCloud Services) we’ll be able to leverage what Microsoft is doing and deliver even more value on top of it for our partners regardless of where it’s hosted.
P.S. I found out after my return that Lone Wolf McQuade drank Pearl Beer. I guess that was my shortcoming, I guess it’s Pearl that gives you superhero powers and allows you to jump your bronco out of the dirt.. Just FYI in case you find yourself in Texas trying to decide which beer.