Microsoft Positioning Itself for Cloud Services Business

The world's largest software company has been late to the party on a few things -- the Internet being a classic example -- but times and its corporate attitude have changed. Microsoft is moving ever deeper into the data center, exploring frontiers it hasn't frequented in the past.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.-Only a year ago, the idea of Microsoft showing cloud computing services at an event like SaaSCon would not have computed one bit.
The world's largest software company has been late to the party on a few things-the Internet being a classic example-but times and its corporate attitude have changed. They had to.
Microsoft, whose executives not long ago were often quoted as hating cloud computing because it cuts directly into their core business, already has swallowed its pride to embrace open source-well, to a certain extent. The company also is trying to move deeper into the data center, exploring frontiers it hasn't frequented in the past.
Cloud computing services is one of those brave new worlds it has been forced to explore. At SaasCon 2010 here at the Santa Clara Convention Center April 6 and 7, Microsoft had its first booth dedicated strictly to business cloud services.
Off the top, it is positioning Exchange Online (e-mail), SharePoint Online (collaboration), Dynamics CRM Online (business apps), SQL Azure (structured storage) and AD/Live ID (Active Directory access) as its lead services for business folks.
All of these are designed to run on Windows Server 2008 in the data center and sync up with the corresponding on-premises applications. At least that's the theory; there haven't been all that many use cases yet to prove how well everything works together.
Naturally, they also are supposed to work hand-in-hand with standard Microsoft client software, including Windows 7, Windows Phone, Office and Office Mobile. So the overarching strategy is in place; users over time will have to report on how it all hangs together.
In addition, the company is offering its own data centers and its own version of infrastructure as a service for hosting client enterprises' apps and services. It is using Azure-a full online stack consisting of Windows 7, the SQL database and additional Web services-as a platform as a service for developers.
Finally, Microsoft Online Services are up and running. They include Business Productivity Online Suite, Exchange Hosted Services, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and MS Office Web Apps.
On the consumer side, Microsoft launched a cloud backup service called SkyDrive, soft-launched about two weeks ago. SkyDrive is an online storage repository for files that users can access from anywhere via the Web.
This may prove to be a popular service, to say the least. SkyDrive offers a tidy 25GB of online space free of charge-way more than the 2GB offered as a motivator by most other services.
There's no mistake about "free" here. All SkyDrive requires is a Windows Live account, which also happens to be free.
It's an ambitious plunge into a market already full of veteran players and bright newcomers alike. Go here for more information.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...