Windows Azure: Growing MSP Jumps Into Microsoft Cloud

A few leading-edge managed service providers are starting to leverage Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud-based operating system. A case in point: West Monroe Partners, one of Chicago's best-known MSPs, embraced Windows Azure and hosted Silverlight to get The City of Chicago up and running with a scalable, fast, user-friendly interactive map for all the events of the world-famous "Taste of Chicago" event. Here are some details from the project.

First, some background on the MSP that handled this project: West Monroe Partners is one of Chicago's 50 fastest-growing companies and one of Chicago's best companies to work for, according to local media coverage. In October 2009, West Monroe Partners expanded its managed services practice. At the same time, the company has been building out its Windows Azure expertise.

For the Taste of Chicago project, the Azure platform apparently was a success. It's one of the first times that Microsoft has been able to flex its new cloud muscle and prove its worth. Microsoft has published a case study about the project. Yes, it's a Microsoft marketing piece but it still gives you a deeper look at why West Monroe Partners went with Azure.

For the uninitiated,  Windows Azure, is positioned as an "operating system as a service" cloud that combines all of Microsoft's web-based, SQL and .NET services. This allows (like many clouds) virtualization combined with managed hosting. The cloud technology isn't going anywhere outside Microsoft's doors, but the word on the web is that it runs on a cluster of Windows Server 2008 R2 boxes with a special version of Hyper-V.

But why Windows Azure for the Taste of Chicago event? The City of Chicago wanted something up, and fast -- 10 days to be exact. They also wanted something that could scale up during traffic spikes, and then dial it back when the event wrapped up. Throwing it into Microsoft's cloud apparently provided an ideal way to fulfill those goals.

So now this begs the question: Are additional channel partners and MSPs ready to embrace Azure? Or does much of the channel remain skeptical of Microsoft's own SaaS strategy?

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