Microsoft's Azure general manager Steven Martin swept through Australia yesterday and took time to brief media on the company's local Azure plans. No further word on when the Sydney and Melbourne locations will finally open, but we did discover a surprising amount about the different animals you can reference when discussing Azure.
Cows picture from Shutterstock
We learned earlier this month that the long-promised Australian Azure data centres were in private preview and "months away" from general availability. Martin reiterated that line during his briefing. He also refused to comment on whether Microsoft was adopting a colocation strategy or building its own data centres.
The expansion into Australia was designed to cover both needs for higher speed and general demand for Azure, regardless of location, Martin said. "New data centres are about either geography or capacity. What we're going in Australia is actually for both. Clearly we need additional capacity to meet the computing need, but also to meet the requirements for low latency and to have local presence.
While he wouldn't give numbers or projections, Martin said he expected a large number of existing Azure customers in Australia to shift to the new centres when they opened. "I've never seen so much pent-up demand for cloud capacity in any other place we've seen."
Longer-term, the key for Azure will be adding additional services to the basic compute and storage options, Martin said. "It's critical to build higher value services, because we know we're in a race to the bottom for commodity services." One recent example of that race to the bottom:
Eventually, Martin predicts just three main cloud vendors will be left standing on the global stage (he didn't name names, but Microsoft, Amazon and Google would be the obvious candidates). "It's pretty clear that the industry is going to consolidate," he said. That doesn't mean every player will go away. There are niches that might work: Government may require data residency in particular locations so global providers may not be appropriate. There will always be vertical niches who require particular types of management."
One advantage for Microsoft, Martin suggested, was that it didn't have to promote cloud solutions at the expense of hybrid models. "There are always occasions where restrictions on the data compel us to keep it within our four walls," he said.
"Cloud is still a relatively modest proportion of the total server capacity on the planet. We think 11-16 per cent, and I haven't seen anything that suggests it's more than 20 per cent"
"The wrong way to do hybrid is to lock yourself into a roach motel on either side. The thing we think we do better than anybody else is being able to move from premises to cloud and back again. I love being able to talk to CEOs and say 'I've got a dog in either fight, I've got no reason to lie to you'."
Having incorporated cockroaches and dogs into the discourse, Martin quickly moved on to bullfighting, when discussing how that lock-in could be more pronounced if you moved further up the stack from basic servers and into that integrated environment. "With platform-as-a-service, somebody's ox is getting gored."
Ox-gored? OK. When those local centres finally arrive, they're definitely going to need an animal mascot.