Microsoft has a perception problem, says Jeremy Howard a C# sharp programmer…
This story gives a great overview of how Microsoft has been re-inventing Azure to embrace open source and other technologies.
Jeremy Howard sees Silicon Valley as an echo chamber. He recently moved to Northern California from Australia, looking to improve the fortunes of his startup, an ingenious operation
known as Kaggle, and he soon found that most Silicon Valley software developers behaved like other Silicon Valley software developers.
“In this echo chamber which is the [San Francisco] Bay Area, unless you follow what everyone else does, then there’s an assumption that you don’t know what you’re doing,” Howard says.
Silicon Valley types think that Jeremy Howard doesn’t know what he’s doing because he runs Kaggle on Windows Azure, Microsoft’s new-age cloud service that lets you build and operate massive applications without setting up your own hardware. Kaggle once ran on Amazon EC2 — the most popular cloud in the Valley and across the rest of the world — but a year ago, the company switched to Azure because it dovetails so nicely with Microsoft’s .NET development platform and its accompanying C# programming language, tools often treated with scorn by the Bay Area hackerati.
In the Valley, Howard says, most developers build their applications with Ruby on Rails, Python, or “if they’re a bit boring,” Java, and they look at him funny when he says that Kaggle uses Azure. “People say, ‘Oh, I’ll have to teach you about Java sometime, so then you’ll know the bright side.’ But I can code in somewhere between 16 and 18 languages, and I can assure you there is nothing like C#.”
In this, the age of cloud computing, Amazon’s service is so popular, it now runs about 1 percent of the entire internet, according to research from independent outfit DeepField Networks. Another study from research outfit 451Group indicates that a similar service from the Texas-based Rackspace has gained a significant foothold as well, and other cloud services, such as the Saleforce-owned Heroku, have at least gained a significant mindshare among the net’s leading developers. But despite some strong reviews from those who have actually used it, Microsoft Azure — more than two years after its debut — is often on the edge of the conversation.
Among the world’s developers, Microsoft has a perception problem. Judging from interviews with myriad coders over the past several months, Azure isn’t just off the Silicon Valley radar. It’s misunderstood. It’s misunderstood not only by the younger generation of coders who grew up on open source software and such languages as Ruby and Python. It’s misunderstood by many developers who have a long history with Microsoft development tools. Last year, in researching a story on Google’s cloud service, App
Engine, we spoke to several longtime .NET developers who had chosen App Engine over Azure, and in most cases, they made the choice simply because, well, they didn’t think of Microsoft as a “cloud company.”
But Microsoft is determined to change these perceptions — so determined that it’s embracing open source software and other technologies that it actively shunned in the past. Azure now runs such big-name open source platforms as Node.js and Hadoop, and though the world doesn’t seem to realize it, Microsoft’s cloud service has long handled development tools other than .NET and C#, including Java, Ruby, PHP, and Python.
In March, Movideo — an Australian outfit that runs a massive Java-based online video service — announced that it would move its service to Azure, and that the service will remain a Java application. This surprises even Jeremy Howard. Though he’s bullish on Azure as a way of running a .NET application like Kaggle, he doesn’t think of Microsoft’s cloud as a place to run something like Java.
Yes, Microsoft built Azure at least in part to serve an existing army of coders who use its developers tools — and to keep them using these tools. Azure tightly integrates with the company’s Visual Studio development kit. But at the same time, Microsoft is branching out, hoping to attract a new breed of developer. Azure also dovetails with Eclipse, the open source development kit for Java.
To READ More: Say Hello to Windows Azure, The World’s Most Misunderstood Cloud by Cade Metz on Wired.com