The announcement alone of Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform a month ago was enough to shift the mindshare in cloud computing from the Googleplex in Mountain View to the behemoth in Redmond, Wash.
That much is clear in talking to some software analysts after Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie dropped the Azure bomb on the audience at PDC in Los Angeles. The company then layered on the cloud theme with the broad launch of Microsoft Exchange Online and SharePoint Online Nov. 17 in San Francisco, essentially in Google’s backyard.
Azure is essentially vaporware, a community technical preview that could change drastically when and if it arrives in 2009.
Yet Azure could give Microsoft the edge in cloud computing it needs over Google, which has wiped the floor with Microsoft in SAAS (software as a service) to this point, according to Enterprise Applications Consulting analyst Josh Greenbaum.
Greenbaum, who spoke to eWEEK recently to weigh in on Exchange Online and SharePoint Online, was impressed by Microsoft’s holistic SAAS approach, from Azure to the Microsoft Online Services that will accompany it:
“In the long run, what they’re doing with Azure and these online services is going to be much more interesting than anything Google can do today and that’s primarily because Microsoft has a strong foothold in the enterprise and has an understanding of what it means to be enterprise class. Google doesn’t understand that.“
Why’s that? Greenbaum said Google is a search company that lives on advertising and really hasn’t been successful cracking the enterprise. From Microsoft Office to its Dynamics business applications, Microsoft has a greater quantity of genetic material with which to really conquer the enterprise space.
As Microsoft builds out Azure and its Online Services, “they’re going to be much better positioned than Google could ever be.”
Analyst Says Googles Got It
InterArbor Solutions analyst Dana Gardner disagreed with this position, noting that Google has everything to gain by going to the Web as quickly, broadly and deeply as possible. Microsoft, in contrast, has historically dragged its feet to the Internet.
While Azure indicates that Microsoft is now taking cloud computing services, the company still has a traditional on-premise software business to protect.
“For Microsoft, this is trading Peter for Paul, and Paul’s a bit poorer for Peter. Google is seeing nothing but upside from an already strong position in advertising. Google has also been mindful that it doesn’t want to be perceived as being aggressive, dominant and monopolistic, so in some ways it has seeded quite a bit of the functionality that it could bring into its own cloud, it’s been tentative and hesitated to step on toes.“
Gardner believes this innocuous, take-as-you-will approach positions Google better than Microsoft for a cloud computing ecology, which is loathe to be roped into the lock-in associated with traditional licensing scenarios.
Microsoft, he argues, is in a difficult position because as it moves to the cloud, people will be wary of Microsoft becoming dominant across office productivity, CRM and ERP enterprise applications, data management and portals.
“It seems to me that as Microsoft moves its portfolio to the cloud, it becomes more and more of a threat to the ecology of other players that might want to build on top of a cloud partner infrastructure model. Unless you shoot for the moon and sew up the entire cloud compute business, you have to be looking at this as an ecology play. It’s services upon services upon services on somebody’s infrastructure. How those services can play off of one another to create business value is what the cloud promise is all about. Somebody that comes into the cloud space and says ‘we have it all for everybody, just sign up with us and forget all the rest of your IT business,’ that sounds a little more risky than anything else I’ve heard.“
Gardner’s belief is that while Microsoft may have been able to entrench itself in on-premise software, users will rebel against giving up the entire control of their IT via SAAS to Microsoft, which wants to do everything for everyone and can control price in the market.
So, Microsoft’s dominant position in on-premise software is an Achilles heel in the cloud? Yes, Gardner said, noting that Microsoft’s isn’t fungible.
The cloud model, he added, is about sharing revenue and participating in ecologies that build out business processes.
What camp will you be in next year?