Wolfe's Den: Less Client, More Cloud For Microsoft After Windows 7 - InformationWeek
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Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Wolfe's Den: Less Client, More Cloud For Microsoft After Windows 7

Intriguing evidence points to the fact that cloud computing services for both enterprises and consumers--in the form of Azure and Windows Live--will loom larger in Microsoft's future than anyone realizes.

First off, it should be noted that caveating one's statements is embedded in Microsoft's corporate DNA, though it can cause unusual intellectual contortions in a company so vast. I was once at a briefing for Windows CE where the product manager took pains to stress that this product would not cannibalize sales from desktop Windows. As if.

I think it's a truism that hidebound corporations with many "legacy apps" are not going to move "100 percent into the cloud." But then, they're probably not the best prospects for cloud vendors' sales pitches, nor the most likely exploiters of the business innovation advantages cloud can deliver.

Very likely, just as cellphone penetration has been higher in countries which didn't have a built-out legacy landline network, there will be many new and emerging enterprises which use a cloud-only model, and do so from the ground up.

If you're thinking that Microsoft might be a laggard in catching on to this market dynamic, my research tells me you should think again. Unlike Digital Equipment Corp., Wang Laboratories, and every other one-major-industry-inflection-point pony which has come before it, cloud could actually be Microsoft's savior.

Perhaps Microsoft's experience in the early days of the Web browser, where it took years to surpass Netscape, have taught it not to take nascent trends so lightly.

We have the evidence presented in Weier's article about Microsoft's public commitment to the cloud. What I found really interesting is the research which I believe supports my thesis that Microsoft sees cloud as its core strategy going forward.

Microsoft's cloud-computing footprint, and its development efforts, stretching across multiple groups throughout the organization. Development work is under way within a separate group within Microsoft Research (called the Extreme Computing Group, or XCG), as well as in Microsoft's corporate research and development organization, the Windows Live team, Windows Azure, and the Online Services Division.

One gets a sense of the commitment to cloud -- I write this with admiration -- to read the way it's described in some recent job postings Microsoft has up on its career site.

Here's a portion of the job description for a systems developer in the cloud computing futures group, out of Microsoft Research:

"We are at the beginning of a far-reaching paradigm shift driven by powerful mobile devices, wireless connectivity, and services hosted across the internet. The Extreme Computing Group (XCG) in Microsoft Research is chartered to rethink computing at extreme scale == from alternative quantum computing models, through the revolutionary effects of many-core parallelism, to the massive cloud computing infrastructure and applications. As the name suggests, XCG is moving beyond the current practice to develop the hardware and software platforms that will ensure Microsoft’s success in coming decades.

The Cloud Computing Futures (CCF) team is developing an innovative hardware and software platform to facilitate software development, reduce acquisition and operational costs, and improve reliability and robustness. Our goal is to find and demonstrate the innovations that give Microsoft a competitive advantage and that bring software development for cloud computing into the mainstream. To achieve this end, our projects span the usual hardware-software boundaries to encompass innovations in power distribution, cooling, server design, networking, and system software, programming languages, and tools. To motive and drive our efforts, we are developing innovative cloud-computing applications."

Here's one for a Windows Azure senior software development engineering, in corporate R&D :

"Passionate about cloud computing technology and SaaS? Ready to build the next billion dollar business? Look no further than the Windows Azure team. The team has shipped a community technology preview of the cloud computing platform last year and is working to the first commercial launch that is about to change the world of computing. Windows Azure is at the centre of the next sea change that is underway at Microsoft, as we redefine how services are built and run. You will be an agent of change not only externally but also for services within the company, and if you feel jazzed about being part of the change, then this team is the place to be.

Windows Azure is the cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting, storage, and service management environment for the Azure Services Platform. Windows Azure provides developers on-demand compute & storage to create, host and manage scalable and available web applications through Microsoft data centers. For the Commercial launch we will be focusing on building scale, manageability, richness in technology offerings and a flexible business model. We are looking to add smart, passionate technical and business folks to join the team for the journey ahead, as we go about building the next billion dollar business group in Microsoft."

Note that Azure, which is technically still within its community technology preview, is scheduled to enter general availability in November.

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