Over the last few weeks I have been spending a lot of time reading about, and discussing with a number of folks, the notion of Cloud Computing and what it means. One of the things that keeps coming up in the conversation is what is Windows Azure and how does it fit in the Cloud Computing landscape, and another is what can I try to make be better understand this Software+Services thing you keep talking about?
In all of my conversations and reading, one thing that has become clear in my mind is that Cloud Computing can mean different things to different people depending on where they are coming from. Having recently attended a Cloud Computing conference in Toronto, and listened to 10 speakers over a day, and been subjected to 8 different definitions on what Cloud Computing is, the conclusion I have come to is – it depends.
To some folks, Cloud Computing means an environment where you can rapidly provision servers and applications, be that environment hosted somewhere outside your organization or on your own premises. Personally, that to me is just effective use of virtualization.
Another view is that anytime you have any or all pieces of an application hosted somewhere you are doing cloud computing. Maybe closer but still not a complete solution in my mind.
Others link Cloud Computing to using a specific vendor’s Internet-based infrastructure instead of your own. This now becomes a vendor-centric definition of Cloud Computing that is tied to Amazon’s S3 infrastructure, of Microsoft’s Windows Azure, or even application level elements like Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, or the just announced Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite. These are all great products that have a place but are they the definitive view of Cloud Computing?
The reality is that I don’t have the answer and welcome your input.
One thing that I can talk about is how we see the Cloud and its potential. In the next couple of weeks, the Developer and Platform team will head out across the country on the EnergizeIT tour and we will present our view of the Microsoft Platform Vision. We will go over the big picture of what the future of the Microsoft Platform is but also show you the concrete pieces that exist today that you can try out and start to get you and your organization ready.
One of these pieces, the Microsoft Business Online Suite (or BPOS), had its worldwide availability announced today at CeBIT. You can find out more or give it a try yourself by going to http://www.microsoft.ca/online. There you will also find information on our other online offerings for organizations of all sizes. I encourage you to check it out, whether or not you plan on attending EnergizeIT.
The Cloud represents a fundamental shift in the way we think about computing resources for our organizations. Learning how to take advantage of it and make it work, fit your organization, and help introduce greater efficiencies of IT within the enterprise are critical, especially in these tough economic times.
What are your thoughts on Cloud Computing? Leave a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.