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And for good reason, he says. Microsoft owns a lot of back office IT operations for enterprises between Office, Exchange and SharePoint. Because of that real estate the company already has in the enterprise market, Microsoft has an opportunity to extend those customers into its cloud, Bowker says. Microsoft has been more aggressive than ever in recent months about encouraging customers and partners to join its cloud. Earlier this year the company rolled out on-demand Windows and Linux-based virtual machines and cloud storage to accompany its platform as a service as well.
Combined with the release of Windows Server 2012 and Windows System Server this year, Microsoft is also making a play for powering private clouds behind a company's firewall. That will help Microsoft craft a story for customers to have hybrid cloud deployments all powered by Microsoft and its Hyper-V virtualization software. "Amazon doesn't have as strong of a play in the hybrid cloud conversation," Bartoletti says, which - combined with Microsoft's strong relationships with a large number of enterprise IT shops - could be an advantage for the company moving forward.
If anyone can compete with Amazon on scale, it's Google, says George Reese, founder of enStratus, a cloud management company. Amazon may have the largest scale in the industry, which Rackspace is attempting to match. But Reese says Google has a lot of data centers that are optimized for massive scaling, which is heavy artillery in cloud battles.
Google's play thus far has been focused on application development and hosting. It got into the game with Google App Engine, a development platform, and has since - like Microsoft - expanded into the infrastructure-as-a-service space with Google Compute Engine, giving customers an on-demand virtual machine and storage service. It also has a consumer cloud-facing service in Google Drive, seen as a competitor to Microsoft's SkyDrive.
"Google's not trying to displace Microsoft or Windows developers, nor are they necessarily trying to displace Rackspace," Barontelli says. "They're really going directly after Amazon on pricing and capacity saying 'Hey, we've got scale too.'"
But Amazon's been in the cloud game longer than Google, and both companies suffer from a lack of perceived support for users. But the strengths of Google's platform, and its activities in the startup community, could make it a viable competitor in the cloud market.
Read more about cloud computing in Network World's Cloud Computing section.