Microsoft Cloud Initiative Announcement Looming

With the new fiscal year beginning, I think we'll see Microsoft's cloud announcement sometime in the next three months, no later than the end of the year. Last week Microsoft Chief Software Architect, Ray Ozzie, stood in front of the 08 Financial Analysts Meeting hinting at Microsoft cloud initiatives as "progressively move to embrace the cloud", "significant announcements, significant efforts" and "broader in scope and different than our competitors". An obvious reference to Amazon EC2/S3 and Google Web App Engine. Microsoft's cloud initiative is the only huge announcement in the Software + Services strategy that we're all waiting to hear about in the near term. Speculation abounds about the "over the top" massive data centers Microsoft is building. Microsoft's already confirmed they're building a data center amongst all the corn in Iowa.

So, how is Microsoft's cloud computing initiative (I call it MS Cloud) different than Amazon or Google? We'll have to wait for the announcement(s) to know that for sure, but I'd speculate, based on Ozzie's comments, that we can piece together a pretty good idea what might be part of MS Cloud announcements.

  • Would you like some MS Cloud with that data center? Ozzie sees Windows as the "connected OS". It's not about apps that are either in the data center or in the cloud. It's either/or, or both. Enterprises are in a two phase transition; consolidation (a.k.a. consolidation onto big honking commodity servers leveraging virtualization), and the move into the cloud. I've said before that the data center doesn't go away, it becomes just a perimeter extension of the cloud, with some elements exposed to the cloud seamlessly and others very internally focused. I think this is consistent with what Ozzie is describing.

  • One connected software stack.

    Check out the diagram Ozzie used to describe the Microsoft software stack. It's not a new one, it's been around. It says two things to me. One, that Microsoft sees it's software stack spanning from the data center across into the cloud. If Microsoft makes the cloud emulate the software environment of the data center, plus more in terms of compute, data and other services, the easier customers transition or co-exist in both. Either way, customers stay on Microsoft technology. The other substantial thing about the diagram isn't what's there, it's what's missing. SQL Server Data Services - data services to what? MS Cloud data services of course. Windows Server in the data center, but only Windows in the cloud? Yes, if it's Windows Server, Hyper-V, Windows Mobile, etc. And some of what's missing are components that make up the "connected" in "connected OS"; Windows Live Mesh, Office Live Workspace, Microsoft Sync Framework, and likely future connected services. BizTalk was also missing from the diagram.

  • It's all about the development tools. Ozzie spent a considerable amount of his FAM talk bringing up the role of software development in the initiative to progressively embrace the cloud. Describing web developers as "extremely pragmatic", they will use software tools and components that work, not based on how well they are marketed or not. I think we will see some development tool and/or technology announcements about building apps in the cloud when Microsoft unveils there cloud. Something much richer than the limitations of Google's Web Engine, and a richer, better defined software stack than Amazon EC2. Maybe we'll see more of Microsoft Sync Framework and BizTalk as part of that toolkit too.

  • MS Cloud houses all of Microsoft's services.  Microsoft's cloud just isn't a utility computing environment. It will house MSN, Live Search, Live and Live Office services, and Microsoft Online Services (Exchange Online and SharePoint Online) right along with business applications requiring much more specific SLAs.

  • Will Linux and Open Source be welcome in the MS Cloud? The keys to the MS Cloud kingdom are likely to come in the form of Hyper-V, at least for non-Microsoft technologies, such as Linux, Java and LAMP stack apps. Will Microsoft embrace these non-Microsoft technologies and applications? Possibly. I think they'll just open the door to them, facilitating some way of also housing these apps in MS Cloud while Microsoft makes a compelling case to move them onto the Microsoft stack. But make no mistake about it, MS Cloud will be all about the Microsoft software stack, from Windows Server, right up through .NET apps and Windows Mobile OS.

I can't say all of this presents a crystal clear picture of what Microsoft might announce, but I think Ozzie's FAM presentation gives us insight into how Microsoft is building its onramp into the cloud. When Ozzie hints that Microsoft's cloud announcements will be big, really big, this helps paint a picture why. Now, I'm afraid to bring this up but somebody's got to: How are we going to secure the MS Cloud? Hmm... Nobody's mentioned that yet beyond AD + Windows Live authentication. And how does System Center manage an infrastructure that partly lives in the corporate data center and partly in MS Cloud, or fully in the cloud. Those are both good questions. I guess I should thank Ozzie for not mentioning those topics. It leaves me more fodder to blog about in future blog posts!

Like this? Here are some of Mitchell's recent posts.Podcast/Video: Xobni & Co-Founder Matt BrezinaIs Live Search Making Headway Against Google?Live Mesh Sighting For MacsS+S: The Kobayashi Maru of MicrosoftPodcast: Simon Crosby - Why Simon Loves Hyper-VPartners Quake Under Microsoft Hosting $3 Pricing Product Reviews: Microsoft Live Mesh Google App Engine LiveNewsCameras.com Xobni Outlook plugin Recent Converging Network Blog Posts: Get Ready For XaaS Everywhere Unbelievably Bad Web Password Security Back From Hiatus, Saved by Web 2.0 Technology It Takes a Village.. ah, actually, being there first and tons of hard work

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