It may be hard to believe, but Microsoft Azure has been around for over 7 years now. The real drive to migrate to the cloud is a much newer thing. More and more, on-premises virtualization is losing ground to the feasibility of spinning up virtual servers and applications in Microsoft’s data centers. This wasn’t always the case. There were a few deterrents for decision makers, being: cost, complexity, and availability of third party solutions. To address these types of concerns, Azure has matured.

What’s it going to cost? This is an obvious question when talking about moving to the cloud. Azure’s costs have come down considerably. Storage is cheaper. Azure has been able to scale out at an incredible rate. They are introducing new data centers all the time. Getting Azure off the ground was a huge expense for Microsoft. Expanding it is much easier and the savings are being passed on to customers. Also, the number of server options has increased significantly. When exploring compute options in Azure, you have a plethora of server templates to pick from, based on CPU, memory, and disks required. You can build database-optimized servers, or select the best virtual machine to power your website.

Complexity of implementation in the cloud is a factor in the decision to move. In the past, Azure required all uploaded and cloud created servers to be limited to VHD format and a max size of 1 TB. Although VHD is still the only format allowed, the 1 TB cap has been removed, now allowing 2 TB for an operating system disk and a whopping 4 TB for a data disk. What does this mean for organizations contemplating a move to the cloud? Well, if you are currently running a VMware or Hyper-V environment, yeah you still must convert all virtual disks to the VHD format. Nothing new there. What has changed is the size of disks, which can make the move a lot more appealing to some. Data is growing at an incredible rate. Azure is making it a bit easier for organizations to use larger drives for storing data.

Azure now accommodates a myriad of third party solutions. Whether you need to configure a virtual Fortinet firewall, analyze big data with a Hadoop-style solution, or run a web application in a cost-effective scalable platform, Azure can accommodate your needs. In the past, Azure had limited support for Linux…and why not? Microsoft is Windows. Now, Azure supports many of the larger Linux flavors, further making it a viable solution to replace your aging data center. The point here is that Azure is becoming more attractive to customers that aren’t quite so Microsoft-focused.

Azure really has ‘grown up’. It’s really quite different from the Windows Azure of 2010. The best part, however, is that it’s still evolving. Microsoft has shown a lot of growth by embracing many non-Microsoft tools, services, and operating systems. They are building a very diverse ecosystem, where all (or at least almost all) are welcome. It reminds me a bit of the world I think that most of us would like to live in: inclusive vs exclusive.