Microsoft used its Worldwide Partner Conference to tout its cloud strategy, along with Windows Phone 7 and Windows 7-equipped tablets. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and other executives argued for the company's continued viability.
week revolved around its Worldwide Partner Conference, which took place in Washington, D.C., July 11-15. The cloud,
along with Windows Phone 7, dominated much of the conversation at the event;
Microsoft has positioned both as absolutely vital parts of its future strategy.
The WPC is Microsoft's venue for
touting the benefits of the company's partner network. Each day of this year's
nearly weeklong show began with a high-profile keynote in the city's Verizon Center, after which the nearly
20,000 attendees headed to the nearby Convention Center for tutorials, seminars
and an expo.
"We've been shouting
about 'O Cloud' at the WPC now for about four years," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told
the audience gathered to hear his July 12 keynote. "There's no
question that Microsoft has chosen to embrace that path together with all of
you, and there's no question that there's more to do."
Ballmer suggested that his
company's work with its own cloud-based IT infrastructure-used to deliver
services such as Bing and Hotmail-informed its development of the cloud
services it plans to deliver to businesses. Although the cloud will
theoretically remove much of the cost and complexity associated with those
businesses' IT departments, for Microsoft it also brings a particular brand of
"When customers put
their data into our system," Ballmer said, "when they entrust more
and more of their data and operations to us, there's the need to do a better
job on reliability, security, privacy."
But Microsoft also plans to enable
businesses to create their own cloud, so to speak, with the newly announced
Windows Azure Platform Appliance, a service that brings the capabilities of
Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud-development platform into an individual
enterprise's data center.
Bob Muglia, president of
Microsoft's Server & Tools Business, took
the stage after Ballmer to describe the philosophy behind the Appliance. "It's
important for our partners to build their own public and private clouds within
their data center," he said. "[Windows Azure Platform Appliance] is a
service coming from Microsoft and run in your own data center ... that you then
run on hardware you own or have rented within our own data center." All
capabilities of Windows Azure, apparently, will run via the Appliance.
Muglia compared the Appliance
to a set-top box for either cable or satellite television. "When you have
your television, you are getting a service through your television provider,"
he said. "You turn on the TV, and it works. But you control which channels
you want to watch, and so on. That's exactly what we're doing with the Windows
While Amazon.com offers
infrastructure as a service and companies such as Salesforce.com offer software
as a service, Microsoft is apparently pursuing what Muglia termed "IT as a
service"-via a combination of Windows Azure and other cloud-based products
that fulfill multiple functions within the enterprise.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.