Cloud wars prompt two new certs from Microsoft
The fundamental challenge of any established software company is to identify trends and figure out how to best ride the wave. Those who have the ability to do so explode from garage party to tech giant, while those who can't go from being a tech giant to an irrelevant buy-out. This time around the wave is called cloud computing, and Microsoft's response is called Azure.
Azure is Microsoft's cloud application platform and infrastructure. Users of Azure can design, alter, and launch applications and services to be hosted through Microsoft's own data centers. Perhaps more importantly, a client with extensive computing needs does not need to build their own infrastructure from the ground up, or pay expensive hosting fees for designated third-party servers. The applications built for Azure can be developed using any framework, tool, or language, and can be integrated into an existing IT environment.
Because cloud hosting allocates resources based on need, billing is generally determined by usage. For the casual business, and even private individuals, outsourcing infrastructure makes a lot of sense. A bigger company can perform faster, better and cheaper than your quickly-obsolete desktop PC. With mobile technology improving at a breathtaking rate, the ability to access a powerful virtual machine from nearly anywhere is a very attractive thought. Although cloud computing is not necessarily a new idea, it is an increasingly viable one in an intensely specialized IT world.
Considering all of this, it's no surprise that Azure has plenty of competition, ranging from specialists like Rackspace to household names like Amazon, CenturyLink, Verizon and Google. It seems like everybody and their dog is vying to create the most perfect (and most marketable) set of cloud-hosting solutions. In this fight, money is no object: Verizon paid $1.8 billion to acquire cloud provider Terremark in 2011, and followed up by purchasing CloudSwitch, making it a big slugger in the cloud race. Salesforce bought the Heroku cloud for $212 million, and Amazon has made itself the provider to beat with its highly competitive hosting prices.
Microsoft may be a little late to the race, but it's making up for lost time by enthusiastically throwing up data centers all over the world (it has recently announced plans to build two new ones in Australia). Despite hiccups, Microsoft is building itself into a fierce competitor to the more established providers.
And with new technology comes new certifications. Microsoft Learning is now offering two Azure certification exams: 532 for developers, and 533 for IT pros. The successful completion of either exam grants the applicant Microsoft Specialist certification, and both exams are designed to complement existing certifications (the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer and Solutions Expert, respectively). Azure provides a 99.95 percent SLA (or service-level agreement; essentially the percentage of network "up" time in a given year), so it's in Microsoft's best interest to get top tech professionals both excited and invested in learning the ins and outs of Azure. Microsoft want to compete in the crowded cloudscape, and these new certs will get you a piece of the action.