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IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce Crowd The Cloud

The scramble is on among major IT vendors to establish their place -- and their brands -- in the cloud. IBM on Oct. 6 announced a handful of Web services as part of its push into cloud computing. Microsoft will reveal new details about its cloud strategy later this month. And Salesforce.com is about to redouble its push into platforms as a service.
The scramble is on among major IT vendors to establish their place -- and their brands -- in the cloud. IBM on Oct. 6 announced a handful of Web services as part of its push into cloud computing. Microsoft will reveal new details about its cloud strategy later this month. And Salesforce.com is about to redouble its push into platforms as a service.The cloud may be a nebulous blob of CPUs and storage "out there," but IT vendors don't want to be mere behind-the-scenes data center providers. Amazon.com got out to an early start with its EC2, S3, and SQS services, and Google App Engine is close behind in user mindshare. A dozen others are now scurrying for position.

IBM launched a beta version of Bluehouse, which it describes as a social networking and collaboration "cloud service" for people who work in different companies. It was one of several new software-as-a-service offerings from IBM, all part of a four-pronged strategy: deliver its own cloud services; help ISVs develop and offer cloud services; help business customers integrate cloud services; and provide cloud computing environments to businesses. For more on IBM's strategy, see our Guide To Cloud Computing.

Microsoft seems ready to concede that the cloud is more than hosted versions of Exchange, SharePoint, and some of its other applications. After years of Microsoft's ambivalence toward cloud computing, we're watching to see the degree to which the company deviates from its predictable course and competes more directly with Amazon and Google, as rumored.

I recently attended an industry event where a Microsoft executive bemoaned the fact that Microsoft's name didn't come up when CIOs talked about cloud services. But Microsoft's problem is self-inflicted: While the rest of the industry buzzes over cloud computing, it insists on spinning the discussion to "software plus services," and it's been vague and evasive on any plans to offer development tools and servers in the cloud, a.k.a. platform as a service. Microsoft promises to present its "vision" for the cloud at its Professional Developers Conference, which runs Oct. 27 to 30 in Los Angeles, so stay tuned.

Salesforce, having started out with SaaS services, will introduce new platform-as-a-service capabilities at its Dreamforce event, Nov. 2 to 5 in San Francisco. CEO Marc Benioff last week previewed some of what's coming. The plan includes letting customers bring their own code into its hosted software environment, making Salesforce an alternative for a wider range of business applications.

In doing so, Saleforce will tout "Our Cloud, Your Success." Call it cloud branding, and expect more of it as the competition intensifies like a high-pressure zone.