Realizing the Promise of Cloud Computing with Microsoft

Bob Muglia outlined our vision for the cloud today, at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, DC. You can read our press release and watch the keynote here, but I wanted to give some additional context on our strategy to help businesses embrace cloud computing.

We’re committed to providing a platform that lets customers take full advantage of cloud computing. For those who want a standardized service platform - we’ll run the cloud for them, whether in our data center or theirs. For those who adopt our customizable server platform, we will provide the capabilities in products such as Windows Server and System Center so that they can build their own. Across all of our offerings, we are committed to providing common tools for application development, IT management and identity that let customers and partners carry their existing investment forward to the cloud.

At Microsoft, we are investing deeply to support the shift to cloud computing. It can provide ready-made applications that people can use from anywhere. It can enable a company to quickly spin up IT for an entirely new business with little capital expense. A startup can deliver the next great social media application, without worrying about the hardware to support millions of users. An IT department can respond to the needs of business more quickly at a lower cost of operations. It is also a tremendous opportunity for Microsoft partners to prosper as they help their customers take advantage of the cloud.
Our strategy is to provide the full range of cloud capabilities in both public and private clouds. I won’t spend time here discussing our Microsoft Online Services and other software as a service offerings – that’s another post – but will focus on how we are enabling platform and infrastructure in the cloud through both a services platform (Windows Azure) and a server platform (Windows Server), connected through a common set of tools and experiences.

Why do we distinguish between the two?  A cloud services platform must run on hundreds and thousands of computers distributed over multiple geographies, while providing a single, integrated computing platform for IT professionals and developers. A services platform also needs to provide a full-featured database and support existing systems and applications so they can run in the cloud. The Windows Azure platform, available since February, is such a cloud services platform. It is made up of Windows Azure and SQL Azure and it is being used by more than 10,000 customers today for a wide variety of applications.
But some customers are looking for more control than a public cloud offering can provide – control over things like physical location, proximity to other systems, data management, and regulatory compliance. To help address this need, Bob announced today that we are extending the Windows Azure services platform by offering the Windows Azure platform appliance that customers or partners can run in their own datacenters.
The appliance is the same Windows Azure platform we run at Microsoft, and includes Windows Azure and SQL Azure on Microsoft-specified hardware. Using it, service providers, governments and large enterprises will be able to get the control they need, while still getting the benefits of scale, multi–tenancy, and low operational costs.
Dell, Fujitsu, and Hewlett-Packard are implementing a limited production release of the appliance in their datacenters, so they can deliver cloud services to customers, and we are working with them so they can offer the appliance to run in customer datacenters, too. eBay is an early appliance customer. They believe the Windows Azure platform appliance will help them more easily launch new products and features, while eliminating manual IT processes and reducing costs.

There are good reasons to build a private or public cloud service using our Windows Server platform, too – it’s a versatile platform that allows for greater customization than a standardized service like Azure can provide. Together, Windows Server, System Center, Hyper-V, and SQL Server provide a server platform that lets you build a dynamic, virtualized, self-service infrastructure.
And, just like we are investing in our services platform, we also continue to enhance our server platform. Today we shipped the release candidate of the System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self Service Portal, providing tools and guidance to build cloud services on the Windows Server platform. We also released the beta of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 for virtualized infrastructure and a foundation for cloud computing. And we announced new programs to reward and guide partners as they help customers progress toward cloud with the server platform.