In reviewing some recent updates to Microsoft Azure, I was struck by how far the offering has come along. There is a growing body of educational material on all aspects of the platform, and very helpful material that helps with identifying use cases. I still think the price point is too high for small business, but it is clear that is changing too. The day is soon coming where, if you continue to maintain a Windows-centric business network, some (or all) of your infrastructure will be hosted on Microsoft Azure.
"The Cloud" is a hot topic in the IT world, but so far it has primarily been a big business technology. Hosting infrastructure--also referred to as "Platform as a Service," or "PaaS"--is expensive and complex, and it requires talented (and expensive) systems engineers to take advantage of it. Despite this, PaaS provides a way for companies to scale up and scale down their network infrastructure as needed. They transform what has traditionally required big capital investments in infrastructure into relatively predictable operating costs.
So far the Paas offerings, like Microsoft Azure, haven't really translated all that well to small business. With limited exceptions, it is still cheaper to purchase your own infrastructure--especially if you're going to keep it longer than three years, which has been the case for most of us for quite some time. Now Microsoft Azure maybe changing that. It is certainly something to keep an eye on.