Azure – The Operating System for the 21st Century

Now that I truly live Cloud computing every day as part of the Microsoft Azure product team I thought I’d share a few reflections about the evolution of Cloud computing over the past few years and how I think we’ve really crossed a threshold with the technology of cloud computing.

I recently commented that the cloud really is the operating system of the 21st century and I genuinely mean that.  Here’s why.  When you look at an Operating System (think back to your Concepts of Operating Systems class if you took one) what you’re talking about is a piece of software that manages the hardware of a machine.  It’s job is to enable us to use the machine to do our bidding.  This ranges from basic features such as facilitating I/O, storage, and computational capabilities to more complex tasks such as networking, multitasking, and job scheduling.

Over time operating systems evolved to be very rich environments that we know today.  Looking through the current Azure feature set it quickly becomes apparent that Azure really has matured into a true Cloud OS – the Operating System of the 21st century.  Storage and compute are some of the oldest services and also mimic the evolution of operating systems – think way back – when the von Neumann architecture was a cutting edge concept.  Maybe even in the OS/360 timeframe.  Personal computers followed a similar path: from my Apple IIe which was really just storage, compute, and I/O to current operating systems that are truly rich experiences.  The cloud is on the same path – and Azure has progressed in a very short time from the cloud equivalent of DOS to a rich computing experience like nothing the world has ever known before.  This includes many concepts we would recall from Operating Systems: a job scheduler, compute, storage, I/O, and a powerful communications bus (yes, Service Bus).  The most striking part is that this really isn’t a Windows OS – it is an OS unto itself that is based very much on open protocols and can be leveraged by any client, or even server, OS.

It was a big risk for Microsoft to invest so heavily on the cloud – I appreciate that more being here and seeing how all in the company is.  At first I wasn’t sure if this was really sure about this, but viewed in the context of the cloud being an Operating System for the future – it makes perfect sense.