Does This Cloud Compute ?

Well – I see Microsoft this morning re-branded their cloud compute effort as ‘Azure’ which was previously described as being “Windows in a cloud” – hopefully one won’t accidentally open and allow someone to fall through, as the landing could be a bit rough !

Looking at the what is being presented, I would have said it looks like the typical combination of aspiration (vapour ware) and concept software (beta version) that is often presented by software companies. Microsoft has a history of of presenting ‘me too’ products to their corporate accounts and to the press, which often as much are really just an attempt to inject enough of what Gartner calls ‘FUD’ (fear, uncertainty and doubt) into the marketplace to keep clients from moving to a different non-Microsoft solution.  

The leader in the cloud compute space currently would seem to be Amazon with their EC2/EC3 and S3 Web Services offerings, and while many companies are using these, I have yet to see to any really large companies do so – the length of time it takes to make a decision in a large company typically means that whatever is being looked at is already obsolete long before a deployment is possible. A case in point would be my former employer where, with a bit of luck, Microsoft Vista will finally start to be deployed next year (they are still running Windows 2000) just in time for it to be superseded by Windows 7.

At any rate – there will be lots about this in the press over the next hours, days and weeks so it will be worth keeping an eye on. I personally tend to view cloud computing as a total package – as exemplified by the emergence of net devices (think of the eee PC, and the Android mobile phone) accessing web based document creation, email and media services (like Google Apps which Microsoft is also promising to offer in its next iteration of Office), as well as backend services such as storage, backups, financial applications etc. (as can be sourced on Amazon servers – or XCalibre, or Flexiscale, or Q-Layer, etc. servers) over the air via the internet. After a number of false starts and tentative small steps over the past several years, there does now finally seem to be some industry momentum building.

Putting aside the observation that Microsoft’s key objective is to maintain user lock-in to their product slate by building tight dependancies to other Microsoft technologies, having Microsoft come to the table with their ‘me too’ presentation today is a good thing in the long run for two reasons:

  • the competition keeps the industry sharp – this is a rapidly evolving area with winners and losers yet to be decided
  • their entry at this juncture adds validity to cloud compute technology putting it squarely on the radar of the larger corporate clients who are already Microsoft shops.

This could start to get quite interesting !

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