Microsoft and the cloud : higher and higher ?

Microsoft’s communication can currently be summarized with one word “CLOUD”, not only for professionals and companies but even for consumers. For those who don’t know yet the word cloud is in fact the short version of “cloud computing”.

After virtualization for professionals and Live services for consumers, the cloud seems to be the new emerging target for Microsoft.

  • What is a cloud ?

The cloud is not really new, just a generic word for services over the network.

Which services can be on the cloud yet : 3 different kind of services : applications, services and platforms.

AaaS : Application as a service is easy to understand and not new : a supplier offer a rented application over the network (often internet, but it can be a private network).

SaaS : often in complement with the application the supplier can also supply services. For exemple the company providing salaries software can offer updates, legal adjustments, printing of salaries paper and also bank transfers.

PaaS : Platform as a service is a more general service where the customer can use a dedicated or shared platform (hardware, OS, and other libraries or hosting applications) for it’s own services.

  • Nothing really new ?

These services are not new but the market tend now to be more ready :

  • Internet is now a solid pillow for linking customers and solution providers.
  • software editors now write software “cloud ready” : easyer to share beetween customers, easyer to isolate, more management and invoicing capabilities for applications and platforms
  • users and customers seems to be more ready for it (even sometimes without really be aware of the cloud usage).
  • these new benefits can also be used internally for companies who can use the cloud capabilities and flexibility internally
  • Quality of Service contracts are now common and defined in very exhaustive service level agreements (SLAs).

 

  • What’s Microsoft position on the cloud

Microsoft is not a leader and other companies have offered cloud services before. Even if Bill Gates have talked about cloud services long time ago, Microsoft have taken the cloud direction very recently, but very quickly.

It seems that all Microsoft divisions are now somewhere working with or for cloud solutions for companies and consumers.

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On the OS / Platform side:

Windows Azure is the Microsoft solution for PaaS : Azure is a special Windows OS which imageallow hosting for .NET applications, SQL databases and even Virtual machines.

Windows Intune is the new security management solution imagefrom Microsoft for small and medium companies: it allow to manage computers, antivirus, updates and inventory from the cloud.

Microsoft Atlanta is the codename for a new cloud based application created for monitorinimageg SQL Server (for the moment?) .

On the software side:

Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS) was the first solution imageoffering an Exchange and Sharepoint hosted solution for a very competitive cost.

Office 365 will replace BPOS soon with a more integrated solution : Exchange Online / imageOutlook + Sharepoint + Lync (the communication platform) + Office Web App

Dynamix CRM Online is the latest release of the Microsoft CRM, this application can be imagerun locally but also on the cloud, as a rented service.

On the consumer side:

Office Web Appimage : This is the online version of Office. This idea is in Microsoft’s mind since 10 years but Google apps make the decision to release them easyer. Basically it’s a light version of Microsoft Office applications (Excel, Word, PowerPoint) that you can run from Internet from any computer.

Microsoft implemented it in it’s Live tools (SkyDrive, Hotmail,…) so you can work on a Office document without the need for having Office installed on your computer (or phone).

Hotmail : the mail application from Microsoft has been widely improved end of 2010 and the storage and functionality are using the cloud template for Microsoft : easyly managed,image improved and increased, in order to offer a good hosting to it’s more than 360 milions of users.

Live Messenger is also using the cloud model for it’s services (chat, file sharing, socialimage network, …).

Xbox 360 live services are also using cloud services, for storing gamer profiles, scores and imagesmall games.

Windows Phone 7 is also using the cloud for geolocation services, backup, storing photos and documents on SkyDrive….image

So you can see that the cloud revolution is not an “hype” or a very new idea, finally, more an evolution.

  • Should companies “jump” into the cloud ?

The question is probably more when and at what level… All companies are now linked to Internet so are using Internet services, but using non internet usual services in the cloud is less common.

Cloud give to companies lot of benefits: predictable costs, location and device independance, reliability and scalability, security, low maintenance needs and improved management.

But it also create new problems: dependancy with Internet (reliability, security), dependancy with suppliers (it’s not so easy to change of clouded supplier), security and confidentiality : the cloud is using good security concepts but knowing that data is not internal is sometimes difficult for management to imagine.

Major companies are already adopting cloud solutions and it seems that Microsoft mainly think to them, but small and medium can really win a lot using cloud : il will allow them to use very professional corporate solution at a reduced cost, and without big IT knowledge (I didn’t said without any knowledge).

The cloud’s innovations are now available in much software and platform thus companies are now able to use these solutions internally, making their own private cloud.

So the cloud is the word used for actual IT trends and innovations : services, flexibility and scalability acros Internet.

Laurent Gébeau – IT consultant and photographier, http://www.mtoo.net

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