1969 was really an important year, I was born, Woodstock, a man on the moon, and of course the internet. If there are roots to our current technical opportunities they go all the way back to 1969. Steve Ballmer spoke to a group of students and faculty (as well as a world wide webcast audience) about the future of technology as it related to Microsoft’s Cloud Services.
5 years ago Ray Ozzie wrote a now famous memo where, among other things, he recognized the need for Microsoft to change is direction and focus as a company from pure software to software plus services. At the time the idea was revolutionary. Now it is reality.
The term “Cloud” is heavily used and often not well defined. In general the cloud is defined as 3 different components known as software as a service, platform as a service, and architecture as a service. Microsoft has an active strategy, and thriving practice in each of these three areas.
Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) are a great example of the software as a service offerings currently in place from Microsoft. The great thing about a product like BPOS is that an IT shop no longer needs to purchase their own physical infrastructure to maintain standardized business applications such as Exchange. These applications can be hosted off site saving the company significant capital expense as well as hardware maintenance and administration. Microsoft expects that companies will mix their applications with standardized applications being hosted as services, and with non standardized or mission critical applications being run locally as software. The software plus services strategy has really powerful implications to the business.
Microsoft’s Platform as a service offering is called Windows Azure. Azure provides an off site operating base that allows the subscriber to run services (applications) within a set of modeled constraints on a platform hosted entirely in a Microsoft Datacenter. Azure is a truly innovative platform that is providing opportunities for powerful scale, easy development, and easy deployment on a potentially grand scale.
Microsoft has spent billions of dollars developing a world class network of datacenters located throughout the world.
Steve talked about 5 key dimensions of “The Cloud”
1. The cloud creates opportunities and responsibilities.
Daniel Reed wrote a great blog post where he introduces a term called “Cloud Seeding” which discusses opportunities introduced in the cloud.
When we consider the current Architectural IT environments and their uses we have a limited set of opportunities. As the architecture changes the opportunities and responsibilities grow and change right along with it.
2. The cloud learns and helps you learn to decide and take action.
The internet is valuable because of its information. The information is only as valuable as its ability to help us make real decisions. The cloud may provide new context, and new learning, and new data. As we learn more, hopefully, we make better decisions
3. The cloud enhances your social and professional interactions.
“The amount of innovation that is still to come is amazing!” We have the opportunity to build collaboration quality in the cloud that is almost as good a being there in person.
4. The cloud wants smarter devices.
Microsoft will still do lots of work on things like browsers and other software, but it’s the devices you use that really matter. Steve talked about shipping a camera later this year for XBOX360 that recognizes the user and their gestures. PC’s and phones are smart and are going to get smarter. Televisions that can provide a rich user experience have to come. Windows will evolve to get even smarter and provide a richer cloud experience to the users.
5. The cloud drives server advances that in turn drive the cloud.
The way we think about server hardware and software must change to accommodate the way we think about the cloud. We are building enormous revolutionary data centers with state of the art hardware and software. Container based servers and virtual machine operating systems provide the potential to scale to worldwide proportions. The server advances are now starting to drive the cloud itself. Users should be able to instance their own cloud. Public and private clouds may be very important in the future.
In his summary Steve introduced this concept. The cloud fuels Microsoft and Microsoft Fuels the cloud. True to Ray Ozzie’s vision the majority of Microsoft’s employees are working on concepts that are cloud based. From XBOX to Windows Phone, from SQL Azure to Windows 7, the focus of Microsoft is on the cloud.
“This is the bet for our company!” Steve B.
I know there are some of you out there thinking. STOP! If you take all of my local infrastructure and replace it with a cloud, What happens to my job?
It is a legitimate concern. Hopefully what happens is that you spend more time working on tasks that provide additional value to your business that you formerly didn’t do because there just wasn’t time with all of your other responsibilities.
Don’t fear the cloud! It is an amazing opportunity! Embrace IT!