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Guide To Cloud Computing

The market is getting crowded with Web-based software and storage offerings. Here's what you need to know about the cloud computing strategies of Amazon, Google, Salesforce, and five other leading vendors.

CEO Joe Tucci barely touched on EMC's plans for cloud computing at EMC World last month, but you can be sure he's thinking about it. The cloud by its very nature is a virtual computing environment, and where there's virtualization, there's EMC, owner of VMware.

Earlier this year, EMC acquired personal information management startup Pi and, with it, former Microsoft VP Paul Maritz, who's been tapped as president of EMC's new cloud infrastructure and services division. In fact, the acquisitive EMC has been pulling in for a few years companies that bolster its abilities to deliver on cloud computing. In 2004, it bought Smarts, whose software configures distributed networks and monitors storage. And last year, EMC acquired Berkeley Data Systems and its Mozy backup services.

EMC has expertise in information life-cycle management, which is one area where it expects to have a role in cloud computing. "If we look at EMC's core asset portfolio, all of the key areas of the information infrastructure lend themselves not only to current models of up-front acquisition but also the new model of SaaS and pay-as-you-go subscription delivered over the Internet," says CTO Jeff Nick.

Nick sees companies moving to cloud storage and information management services as a way to "outtask" jobs to cloud computing vendors. "The key to storage in a cloud environment is not just to focus on bulk capacity but as much as possible make it self-managing, self-directive, and self-tuning," Nick says.

What kinds of cloud services might EMC offer? Storage is a no-brainer, though it doesn't have such an offering yet. Beyond that, EMC might be able to bridge compliance monitoring across online and on-premises storage. EMC sees opportunities for SaaS business process management and collaboration, as well as personal information management for consumers. Data indexing, archiving, disaster recovery, and security are all possibilities, too, Nick says. Several of EMC's acquired businesses, including Documentum (indexing and archiving), RSA (security), and Infra (IT service management) are likely paths to getting there.

EMC's VMware division will find its way into the mix. "We want to be the plumbing and the enabler of cloud computing," says VMware CTO Stephen Herrod.

Like his colleague Nick, Herrod is looking ahead. He hints at enabling on-premises server infrastructure to scale up via on-demand virtual servers, disaster-recovery scenarios, and using management software like that acquired in VMware's purchase of B-hive Networks to maintain service-level agreements.

In other words, today's cloud represents just the beginning of many new possibilities.

Illustration by Sek Leung

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