Microsoft Houdini trick: change itself into a cloud

Microsoft is making remarkable strides in converting itself into a cloud company, although the results of that are hard for

its user base to see yet. Microsoft is becoming downright famous for building gi-normous data centers in readying itself for the cloud portion of its software-plus-services strategy. Much has been written about how Microsoft is using green technologies and a "container" style design in its state-of-the-art data center being constructed near Chicago, for instance. But most of corporate America's experience with Microsoft today remains a client/server view. Outlook/Exchange, Office with its fat clients and server components. The closest most folks have come to engaging Microsoft as a cloud company is MSN or MSN Messenger. But Microsoft hopes that its Live Search and its many file-sharing beta services will become as popular as instant messaging and Hotmail.

Still the biggest user Microsoft must convert is itself. Once it does that, it may actually be in a decent position to lead its loyal fans into the great cloud yonder. A story in CNet points to a lot of progress the company is making in building its cloud. Speaking at Structure 08, Debra Chrapaty, corporate vice president of Global Foundation Services at Microsoft, discussed how brick and mortar data centers are what really makes the cloud. Note that Microsoft already supports one of the Web's biggest and busiest collections of sites. The story reports that Microsoft's Web sites have 550 million users, support 2 billion search queries and serve up 10 billion page views per month (plus 8 billion messages on Microsoft Messenger per day). Data centers are a $300 million to $500 million investment for the company and Microsoft typically rolls out a whopping 10,000 new servers per month.

It is interesting that the industry uses the term "cloud" when what we are really talking about are buildings housing enormous computational power. By the time Microsoft is ready to support its envisioned cloud services, it will have learned a lot about how to move from client/server to cloud computing. If it can align its business practices to be as open as the word "cloud" con notates (and Ray Ozzie's vision of the brave new post-Bill Microsoft prevails), it may be in a good position to teach others.

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