Microsoft Joins the Cloud Party

Yesterday at PDC, the big Microsoft developer fest, Ray Ozzie got up and announced the beta launch of Windows Azure, Microsoft’s entry into the cloud computing arena. (It may be beta but you’ll notice they already have a snazzy logo)

This wasn’t a big surprise to anyone since they had been doing some saber-rattling in the past weeks about how they would be joining the party (fashionably late in true Microsoft style).  To carry the party analogy a little bit further, two of the other guests who had gotten there early to help set up, Rackspace and Amazon, made announcements of their own last week.  Rackspace announced the acquisition of two cloud-focused start-ups and a reorganization of their Coud division, Mosso.  Amazon added Windows as an OS to EC2 (have a mentioned how much I dislike the “EC2” name?), dropped the “beta” tag it and added an SLA of 99.95% availability per year.

Looking at the Cloud from both sides now

In an interesting post from the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones, which is based on an interview that Rory conducted with Ozzie yesterday, Rory finds out they have slightly different interpretations of cloud computing (shocker!).  Ozzie sees Amazon as a cloud pioneer but “[insisted] that Google just wasn’t in cloud computing.”

I pointed out that the one cloud application with which I was familiar was Google Docs … But it turned out we were looking at the cloud from different sides. Mr Ozzie was focussing on it as something you rented out to businesses so they could use the vast computing power in your data centres to create applications which could scale up in a hurry – an approach where Amazon is enjoying plenty of success. I was thinking of the cloud as a place where millions of users could store their data and use simple online programmes, mostly for free.

There are folks who agree with Ray that what Google does is deliver Software as a Service rather than cloud computing but I don’t think the distinction is helpful.  To me if you draw on compute resources, be they apps or platforms, from a source you don’t own or manage and that you can scale up or down as needed and you are billed accordingly… that’s cloud computing.  (I’m off to the Rackspace customer event today so it will be interesting to see if I come back with a different definition😉

Pau for now…

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