BitDepth 758 - November 23

Microsoft's Alvaro Celis offers an update on the company's Cloud strategies.
Microsoft bullish on the cloud

Microsoft’s General Manager for Multi-Country Americas, Alvaro Celis at the company’s local office at Westmoorings. Photography by Mark Lyndersay.

Microsoft’s Alvaro Celis was in an expansive mood. The software company’s General Manager for Multi-Country Americas recently set aside time on a visit to Trinidad and Tobago to give BitDepth readers an exclusive update on the progress it has been making with its cloud computing initiative.
The new project, dubbed Windows Azure, was previously reported on in this space in June. Those columns are archived
Since then, Microsoft, which has committed US$9.5 billion to developing productivity solutions, has inspired 70 percent of its development partners to begin working on Azure based solutions and the company expects that number to pass 90 percent early in 2011.

Cloud computing has, so far, meant replicating services and software normally executed on the desktop on the Internet. Word processing, spreadsheets and file sharing, the grist of the corporate mill, have been the primary focus of this early reinterpretation of the desktop in the browser.

Unlike its cloud computing competition, led by Google’s online services, Microsoft has focused much of its most notable Azure development on the large scale commercial and government installations that use its existing software. While there are products, most agreeably priced at free, available for individual users, the early versions don’t really compete with alternatives like Google Docs.  Though is should be noted that even the free products scale nicely for small company cloud collaborations if they currently use Microsoft’s Office suite.

The next step, and it’s one that the company has broadly hinted at since Azure’s launch, is the migration of its crown jewels, Office itself, to the web.
That project now has a name, Office 365, and it’s going to be a lot more than Word in a web browser.
Users will have the choice of working on the software as a service on the web from Microsoft’s servers or on their PCs. IT departments will be able to implement private cloud services available only to employees and public cloud services available to the wider public. In one supremely techy discourse, Celis explained how IT departments will be able to move virtual machines into Azure’s networks.

“Customers are asking for a range of solutions,” Alvaro Celis said.
Office 365 has been available to selected customers worldwide and specifically in Trinidad and Tobago since January and the product is scheduled for launch in the second quarter of 2011.
The new cloud based product for corporate and government use offers much of what exists now in Microsoft’s productivity boxes; Sharepoint, Exchange, Link (a next generation Office Communicator), the Office Suite and a telephony product. Licensing will be based on the specific services that are enabled for each user’s profile.
“We’re taking the company’s most valuable product and enabling it as a cloud service,” Microsoft T&T Manager Pradeep Raman said, summing up the bold move.

Globally, the Azure platform is now being used by seven of the top ten global energy companies and 15 of the top 20 banks.
Local companies, drawn from a range of small and large business installations are participating in the testing, facilitated by 15 local Microsoft partners, but the company could not share any names yet.

Apart from assisting customers with redeploying their business model and systems for the advantages of cloud based computing, Microsoft’s partners in development can tap into the App Fabric, the company’s rubric for a cloud based platform for software development that ties into the company’s existing products on computers as well as its new services on the web.
“Software services are important, but the platform that enables development is the future,” Celis said. “The line between on premise and cloud software is blurring. The cloud will foster advances, and those advances will make the cloud more useful – it’s a virtuous cycle.”
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