Microsoft has been taking big steps to make its cloud platform, Windows Azure, more attractive. Just last week the company announced support for several popular open source development tools including Node.js and Hadoop. It seems that the company is intent on ensuring that Windows Azure remains the leading choice for Microsoft-based cloud services, but the company shouldn’t get too comfortable on its throne. VMWare and little-known Tier 3 have stepped forward to provide Microsoft a little competition. Game on, Azure.

New .Net Cloud Players

It’s not too surprising that Microsoft currently leads the .Net cloud market. After all, .Net technology belongs to the company. That leadership position, however, is anything but safe. Tier 3 has created a .Net cloud platform using Iron Foundry, a .Net-based open source fork of VMWare’s Cloud Foundry. Tier 3 is working to extend the Cloud Foundry core to provide better support for.Net technologies in areas like command-line execution. Not only Tier 3’s revenue stream will benefit from the Microsoft integration; the company is contributing components of Iron Foundry back to the community.

Tier 3’s efforts have provided VMWare an easy path to support .Net. Iron Foundry is derived from Cloud Foundry, so it will not require much effort for VMWare to incorporate the features into its products, which is likely since the company has no love for Microsoft since it began competing against VMWare with HyperV for ownership of the virtualization space. VMWare has little to risk by incorporating the .Net features because it has not spent any time or resources building the features.

Microsoft has had a relatively easy ride to dominance in the .Net cloud market, allowing it to expand into open source without worrying about losing market share for the core platform. The entry of Tier 3 and possibly VMWare will change that. The company will have to divert some attention from its current efforts to support non-Windows technologies in Azure to compete with the new market entrants -- especially if VMWare decides to actively compete.

Accessing the Offerings

Those interested in Tier can either download the Iron Foundry code from Github or use a test environment provided by Tier 3 at no charge for 90 days. However, Tier 3 has not released pricing for its service, so users should be careful about becoming entrenched too deeply with the tooling because rates could be prohibitive.

No matter what the outcome, Tier 3 is likely the first of many competitors to offer an alternative to Azure, and one is bound to eventually be successful.