Cloud // Software as a Service
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4/19/2010
09:23 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Global CIO: Steve Ballmer Interview: 'Hockey Stick' Cloud Growth Ahead

Microsoft CEO talks about new competition with Google, Amazon, and Salesforce, and why CIOs now are ready for cloud computing.

On the other hand, we're going to have different competitive dynamics. If the competitor of the last wave, the primary competitors were Linux and Open Office, and none of that goes away, but I would say the competitors will be somewhat different. It will be Amazon. VMware is kind of a funny tweener I would say on this, because they don't really operate a service themselves. It will be Google, Salesforce, etc.

So, business model changes, operational process changes, and technology changes, but we're already someplace between five to 10 years into some of those changes, for primarily the technology shifts.

Azure is Microsoft's cloud computing platform. Microsoft's betting companies will use Azure to develop applications differently to take advantage of cloud computing's flexibility, and that they'll move those apps between in-house data centers and Microsoft's cloud. On Azure:

Ballmer: The truth of the matter is there's nobody with an offer like ours in the market today, not even close. We're actually trying to help people do what they really will need to do for the modern time. You don't get that out of what Amazon is doing. Amazon is a great company doing great stuff, but they basically say give us your VMs and you can still muck around at the low level.

Well, it basically says let's not change anything. Let's deal with all the complexity of today and put it in the cloud. And they've done a very nice job, that's not accusatory. Different target.

Look, nobody builds cloud services like that, right? The good cloud services don't look anything like an enterprise data center. They're not managed that way. You cannot manage the scale of transaction, the scale of change, the geo distribution of large-scale services, you just can't manage them, either server by server or even VM by VM. That's not how we manage Bing, that's not how Facebook manages their stuff, it's not how Google manages their stuff. You manage the stuff, and in order to manage them in a completely different way, you build it in a somewhat different way.

... And if you look at it today, there is no offer like Azure from anybody else in the market. I mean, if you just go through it. Amazon has done a very nice job helping you take existing things and put them in the cloud. They've done a great job of that. One of the things we'd better add to Azure here sometime is the ability to just take existing things and move them to the cloud. That wouldn't have been a forward-looking thing for us to do as the owner of a development platform, but Amazon has done a nice job, and I give them credit.

But once you get past that, VMware has no service. They'll tell you, you can kind of roll your own and blah, blah, blah, blah.

You know, Salesforce is not a general-purpose programming platform. They're not trying to be. They've done some nice work, but they're not a general-purpose programming platform for large-scale deployment.

Google is kind of its own weird, funny proprietary environment, which I don't think has any hope of ever coming back and being run except out of a Google data center. We have to have a story and an approach where people can run our cloud in their data center. We call that the private cloud. Depending on who you're talking about, that's either viewed as very smart and forward-looking or very troglodyte and backward looking.

We talked about what is it that has CIOs excited about the cloud now:

Ballmer: Between let's say the first part of '07 and the end of '08, it just flipped. Conventional wisdom became I'm going to the cloud, from I hear you about the cloud, until today where people--it's really just a question of where are we. There's a mix of customers and a mix of application sets. It's not like people are saying I've got to take every bespoke application in my shop and move it to the cloud, but people are saying I have a set of bespoke applications I want to move to the cloud, because they have customer contacts, they have high variability in the demand, people are saying, God, I've got to go there for I guess what people like to call SaaS as opposed to PaaS. I don't know if people use these expressions.

But certainly as we think about the desktop, people would love the desktop to be a service in all of its richness, Windows and Windows application execution, collaboration, communication, productivity. People are pushing on that, as they are in CRM. … SharePoint is kind of a funny one, and people say, yeah, I'd like it in the cloud, but the truth of the matter is when you use SharePoint as a front-end for enterprise data, the enterprise data set doesn't move to the cloud, people still want SharePoint on-premise for that purpose, and then they start saying, well, how do I connect my desktop environment in the cloud to enterprise data that lives inside the enterprise, the directory and security infrastructure. We're getting into I'd say the rub of the matter to make that stuff happen.

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