I was reading a magazine last week when I stumbled upon ads from three different IT vendors, all promoting their cloud solutions. I had a pretty hard time telling them apart - they all used similar language, and seemed to be making more or less the same promises. I’m pretty sure that if you swapped the names of the vendors on each other’s ads, no one would have noticed.

It’s been well documented that the IT world is seeing tons of change – lots of devices, even more data and big expectations on IT to make their infrastructure adapt to all of these changes without losing any productivity or security. Not surprisingly, many IT vendors are claiming to solve some or all of these problems with cloud based solutions. And while having more options certainly gives customers more power, it also makes the decision process more confusing – especially when so many vendors are making vague but similar claims and promises.

In such a world, vendors owe it to their customers to clarify why their solution is different from those offered by others. There are three questions that all businesses should ask when evaluating a cloud offering:

  1. Is the solution enterprise-grade? In other words, can you trust your business critical applications and information to it?
  2. Is it designed for a hybrid world, or is it built with a “one-size fits all” philosophy?
  3. Will your people have to sacrifice productivity when using the solution?

My goal with this post (and subsequent ones over the next few weeks) is to tell you what differentiates Microsoft’s Cloud OS from other cloud solutions in the market.

An Enterprise-grade platform

Microsoft has hard-earned experience running mission critical workloads and some of the largest public cloud services today. Enterprise customers already trust us with some of their most important IT assets on-premises, while over 1 billion business and consumers users depend on our public cloud services, including Bing, Office 365, and Xbox Live. Do you really want to entrust your business critical workloads to a cloud vendor that has little experience serving enterprises? On the other hand, would you really want an on-premises IT vendor to use your business as a test case in its first attempt at running a large public cloud service?

While some of our competitors may lay claim to enterprise experience or large public cloud experience, none match us in both. This is why companies like Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield have chosen Windows Azure to run their mission critical workloads.

A solution that is designed for the Hybrid world

The move to the cloud will not happen overnight. It will be gradual, and for some time, IT will have to manage both on-premises and off-premises assets. For some, this hybrid world will be a temporary status, and for others, it’s how they imagine their final state. According to IDC, 80% of the world’s 2000 largest companies will have more than 50% of their IT onsite by 2020, and 74% of enterprises expect their cloud service provider to move cloud offerings back on-premises if needed.

In other words, the cloud roadmap for every customer will be different. This principle is core to our vision for the cloud and explains why we have invested heavily in bringing to life a hybrid solution that spans across your datacenters, Windows Azure, and/or a hosting service provider’s datacenter. When you decide that a dev/test workload should be brought back on-premises, or that you want your service provider to host some of your virtual machines, our hybrid design allows you to do so far more easily than other vendors, some of whom seem to believe that they know what is best for their customers.

An example of this need for flexibility is the University of Washington, which was able to move an increasingly-popular self-service reporting application from an on-premises environment to Windows Azure when the application suddenly got so popular that it no longer made sense from a cost and labor perspective to add more servers.

A people-focused approach

As important as enterprise-ready solutions and hybrid capabilities are, the two don’t mean much if a cloud solution is difficult to use or hinders productivity.

Microsoft has years of experience driving maximum productivity for end-users with products like Excel and are now using the same principles of familiarity and ease-of-use to guide our development of cloud services for IT professionals and developers. By using our own services to power our business, we learn from our growing pains and put those learnings back into the solutions we provide customers. The Bing team began deploying Windows Server 2012 even before it was released, and subsequent feedback from the Bing team helped us make Windows Server better. In other words, you benefit from our scale – not only in cost but also in innovation.

Learn more about Cloud OS by visiting our website and keeping an eye out for our subsequent posts, where we will dive deeper into how our solution differs from specific vendors.

Diane Wang
Product Marketing Manager