Application Developers to Keep Their Eyes on the Cloud

For software developers, 2008 was the year of the cloud, and 2009 will pick right up from there with more and more cloud computing activity. Application developers are jostling to get into the fray as more and more vendors enter the realm of the cloud.

Perhaps the biggest issue facing developers in 2008, and certainly moving into 2009, is the cloud. How should developers gear up to take advantage of the cloud computing environment? Who's doing what, and what trends do developers have to look out for?

As one of his major predictions for 2008, Forrester analyst John Rymer said he believes more and more enterprises will move to the "cloud for commodity workloads."

Nearly every major vendor has announced cloud strategies over the last year-not just the usual suspects such as Google and the space-leading, but Microsoft, IBM and a host of others.

"Virtualization and cloud computing are the key architectural breaks driving a massive transformation in the world of computing," said Patrick Kerpan, CTO and co-founder of CohesiveFT (Cohesive Flexible Technologies), a cloud infrastructure software provider. "It is computing 'gone through the looking glass.' We will look back and not be able to remember how we used to do things. It will be similar to the world of five years before Netscape to five years after Netscape."

At its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles in October, Microsoft made its entry into the cloud space known with an offering intended to compete with Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud), Google's Google App Engine and others.

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Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, announced Windows Azure, the cloud-based service foundation underlying its Azure Services Platform, and highlighted this platform's role in delivering a software-plus-services approach to computing.

Microsoft said developers can use the familiar Microsoft Visual Studio tools to build applications for the Windows Azure platform. Indeed, Visual Studio will have four new cloud templates to support development of Windows Azure applications, Microsoft said.

Most of all, Microsoft's presence in the space will legitimize it for everybody else, much as the company did for the ALM (application lifecycle management) space with its delivery of Visual Studio Team System a few years ago.

Microsoft also announced its Live Mesh offering in April. Allowing users to sync data and applications from all of their devices in tune with a cloud operating environment, this could be just the boost developers need, enabling them to write an application once and target it to multiple places.

Amazon Web Services, which currently leads in the cloud space in terms of real deployments, made several key announcements in 2008. Just prior to Microsoft's announcement of Windows Azure, announced plans to support Windows Server and SQL Server on its EC2 platform in what amounted to a preemptive attack on Microsoft.