One of my goals this past year has been to get more hands-on with respects to real-world cloud applications. Working for Aditi has provided many opportunities to dig into some interesting cloud workloads. In addition to building all kinds of applications running in Windows Azure, I’ve learned a lot working with Ryan Dunn and Raghu Rajagopalan on building products (like Scheduler) that run in the cloud.

Coming from a Windows Azure focus at Microsoft my natural tendency has been to approach most problems with solutions in Windows Azure. It’s amazing how versatile Windows Azure is as a platform; with a little bit of elbow grease there are few problems you can’t solve. That said, what I’ve come to release is, regardless of any platforms merits, there are always cases when you need to leave your comfort zone. For me, this has manifested itself with customers that – for a great many reasons – look to either Amazon Web Services or SalesForce.com for solutions.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a huge fan of Windows Azure and incredibly excited by what the platform offers. (And not just because I spent five years of my life working on it!) Just look at the evolution Windows Azure has taken over the last year:

  • Introduced IaaS capabilities last year
  • Introduced Windows Azure Websites
  • Introduced Windows Azure Mobile Services
  • Introduced Media Services

… and so much more. There’s never been a better time to build on Windows Azure.

That said, it’s interesting to talk to CIOs and technology leaders at various companies. I’ve found a great many different mental models people have for the cloud. Generally speaking, it appears that when talking to a technical person the cloud is synonymous with AWS; when talking to a businessperson the cloud is synonymous with SalesForce.com. We all ignore these platforms at our own peril. The same can be said for folks focused entirely on AWS or SalesForce.com – you ignore Windows Azure at your own peril.

At the end of the day, no one platform ever has all the answers. If we’re honest with ourselves we have to admit that it’s both worthwhile and important to understand other platforms as well. The desire to learn and to branch out into new areas is natural; furthermore, and most importantly, the needs of customers comes first.

All of this is a way of saying that you’ll start to see me blog more about other cloud platforms – certainly AWS and SalesForce.com, but it’s possible I’ll go even beyond these two. There’s a lot to learn from platforms like Heroku, Google Cloud, and others.

None of this is surprising or revolutionary. Consequently, you may ask yourself, why a long blog post? Well, primarily it’s because I don’t want to give the impression that I’ve given up on Windows Azure. In fact, I’m more excited about the future of Windows Azure than ever before. There’s a lot of opportunity just around the corner.

So … to the cloud(s)!