Sunday, March 7, 2010

Microsoft Is "All In" for Cloud Computing

In the boxing ring of Enterprise IT, one of the heavyweights has now joined the fight. Because this was the week that Microsoft, with just six weeks to go before the 5th Cloud Expo, of which Microsoft is a Gold sponsor and one of the biggest exhibitors (out of over 70 leading Cloud companies exhibiting), came out of the corner swinging.

Specifically Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer, gave a speech on Thursday to computer science students at the University of Washington. He discussed what’s ahead for computing, with a focus on how cloud computing will change the way people and businesses use technology.

"Twenty million businesses and over a billion people use Microsoft cloud services," Ballmer noted.

One of his slides in Seattle was headed:

"The cloud fuels Microsoft, and Microsoft fuels the cloud"

The most telling quote of all perhaps came towards the very end of his address. "This is the time," Ballmer said. "It's the opportunity and the cloud forms the basis between the microprocessor and the Internet, we did give the gifts that never stopped giving. And they're giving us the cloud today, and as I like to say at Microsoft, for the cloud we're all in."

Right after giving his speech, Ballmer sent an internal email to all Microsoft employees, the full text of which is worth reading since it gives chapter and verse on why Microsoft believes cloud computing to be one of the biggest opportunities in decades for the tech industry and for Microsoft. Here it is:

To: All Microsoft employees
From: Steve Ballmer

Today, I spoke to a group of students and faculty at the University of Washington to discuss how cloud computing will change the way people and businesses use technology.

My goal was to challenge people to look at the cloud more broadly and understand the multidimensional nature of the cloud transformation happening today. Other companies have defined the cloud in a narrow, one-dimensional way. Although these companies provide some interesting components, Microsoft is uniquely delivering on a wide range of cloud capabilities that bring increasingly more value to our customers.

In my speech, I outlined the five dimensions that define the way people use and realize value in the cloud:

* The cloud creates opportunities and responsibilities
* The cloud learns and helps you learn, decide and take action
* The cloud enhances your social and professional interactions
* The cloud wants smarter devices
* The cloud drives server advances that drive the cloud

This view fuels our investments across the entire company, from datacenters to cloud platform technologies to cloud-based development tools and applications. Today, nearly every one of our products has, or is developing, features or services that support the cloud. As I said today, when it comes to the cloud, we are all in. We are all in across every product line we have and across every dimension of the cloud.

Of course, this is not news to any of you. We have been making huge investments in the cloud for the past decade. Nearly five years ago, Ray's "Services Disruption" memo provided the outline for what we needed to do as a company, and with the delivery of Windows Azure at the recent PDC, we have made huge strides in making this vision real.

To keep our momentum, it is critical that every Microsoft employee works to deliver the full benefits of the cloud to our customers.

As a part of this, I request that you do the following:

* Watch the speech on demand here
* Learn more about our cloud offerings and how they relate to our overarching software plus services strategy here (unavailable outside Microsoft network)
* Review your commitments to ensure you are landing our vision with customers and partners.

Of course, there is more work to do. We have strong competitors. We need to be (and are) willing to change our business models to take advantage of the cloud. We must move at "cloud speed," especially in our consumer offerings. And we need to be crystal clear about the value we provide to all our customers.

To drive our message home even further, today you will see an ad campaign in the U.S. focused on our commercial and government businesses, a new website with consolidated content and case studies, and ongoing emphasis on the cloud from me and other members of the SLT in our upcoming speeches and presentations.

We have an enormous opportunity in front of us. We have great products and services in the market today and a range of new ones on their way.

All of our products make the cloud better, and the cloud makes our products better.


Anyone who wants to see how exactly all this is being translated into reality by Microsoft should make sure to attend 5th Cloud Expo at The Jacob Javits Convention Center next month (April 19-21, 2010). Microsoft's Azure services will have a prominent presence on the 3-day show floor, with a massive 25-foot by 25-foot booth that will leave no one in any doubt about Steve Ballmer's words. Microsoft truly is "all in" for the Cloud.

To borrow Ballmer's phrase, the event has grown at "Cloud speed" since we first produced it, in the heart of Silicon Valley, in 2008. It is currently trending to be The Lsrgest Cloud Computing Event in the World.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Found: A Shining Beacon of Insight Among the Clouds

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whom most people know as an English poet, also wrote some very nice prose about words. For example he was the one who summed up poetry itself as being about, above all, choosing "the best possible words in the best possible order."

Another fellow who knew a thing or two about words was a predecessor of mine - by a few hundred years! - at Trinity College, Cambridge. His name was Archbishop Richard Chevenix Trench and he produced, among another things, a little volume call On The Study of Words. This was back in 1852.

At one point in this book, Trench is musing on the power of words and, in particular, the role that words play in paving the way for the public acceptance of ideas.

Some ideas, he notes, just don't seem to catch on until the right words are found to "nail" them down.

I was strongly reminded of Coleridge, and of Trench, when interviewing a technology CEO the other day about Cloud Computing. Because this particular CEO seemed to be a beacon of light amid the murky fog surrounding Cloud Computing. And what stuck in my mind particularly was his ability, just as Archbishop Trench noted, to "nail down" the essential value proposition of Cloud Computing.

One new term that he used and that struck me as particularly insightful was this: "Resource Cloud."

This term definitely resonates immediately with me as being one that will not just help, it will triumph. Instead of talking of hardware, of physical servers, what the world needs to do is think of there as existing a "Resource Cloud" in which providers of resources and consumers who use compute power are matched up.

"Those consumers don't need to know, and indeed don't care, where the resources are," said my CEO. "So let the providers with the hardware push it into the cloud while the consumers consume it by creating virtual machines."

He continued:

"'I need X terabytes of storage at this kind of performance level, let us say Grade A performance, and I need 30 CPU cores,' the consumer might say, and the providers will run the hardware necessary to supply that need. IT runs the hardware side, but it doesn't manage the virtual side. That is done by the customer at via their Virtual Data Center."

So this is his vision, the vision also known loosely as "Virtualization 2.0"

But to my ear, "Resource Cloud" is the stronger metaphor, with more likelihood of catching on. And in 21 days' time I will revisit this posting to add the name of the CEO concerned. He already has established himself as thought leader in the world of technology. I haven't a doubt that he will come very soon to be recognized too as the man who put datacenter virtualization on the map forever and for always with the introduction of this one colloquy: REsource Cloud."

What do you think? Is it the best term? Do you have a better one?