microsoft-windows-azure-2Windows 7 is out the door, but Microsoft has its hands full with another Windows development effort: Windows Azure, which will allow independent software vendors (ISVs) to develop and run applications in Microsoft's cloud. Here's an update on Windows Azure, and the implications for VARs and channel partners.

Microsoft introduced the Windows Azure partner strategy during the Worldwide Partner Conference back in July 2009. Around the same time, Microsoft insiders confirmed that third-party open source applications and databases -- such as MySQL -- would be available in the Windows Azure cloud.

The open source ISV theme continued this week, as SplendidCRM announced plans to run on Windows Azure. Microsoft hopes Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio will attract even more ISVs to the Azure cloud.

Mixed Forecast

Now for the challenges: Azure isn't a production environment yet. Most sources point to November 2009 for an anticipated launch. In the meantime, many MSPs and VARs are apprehensive about Azure.

During the recent N-able Partner Summit (Oct. 14-16, Arizona), which attracted roughly 350 MSPs, a guest keynote speaker raised the following point about Windows Azure and its sister system, the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS): When VARs and MSPs lack administrator access to operating systems, they essentially lose control of the environment and the customer.

Translation: It sounds like some VARs and MSPs won't be rushing to push their customers into Microsoft's cloud, where Microsoft holds the keys to virtualized customer applications.

On the other hand, ISVs could be the big winners in the Azure sweepstakes -- especially since many Windows Server application developers don't have the time, money or expertise to set up a cloud platform for their applications. Assuming it works as advertised, Azure could address those challenges head-on.

Apparently, we'll find out in November 2009.

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