Microsoft is using its Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles to push the cloud as an ideal solution for businesses looking to boost their productivity and customer-relationship management.
Announcements during the company's July 12 keynotes included the upcoming release of a System Center 2012 beta, which lets IT administrators manage machines and applications across a system of public and private clouds. An App Controller feature gives those pros an aggregated understanding of all their private clouds, along with services deployed on Windows Azure.
Microsoft executives also mentioned the next version of Windows Server, code-named Windows Server 8, which will apparently boost the ability to manage private-cloud infrastructure. However, the company is keeping a somewhat tight lid on details until September's Build conference, where Windows 8 will make a fresh appearance.
In conjunction with the conference, Microsoft is also offering up SQL Server Code Name "Denali" Community Technology Preview 3 (or CTP3) and SQL Server 2008 R2 SP1, both of which are available via the Microsoft SQL Server Team Blog.
Microsoft also plans to make the next Dynamics CRM Online update available in the fourth quarter of 2011. In keeping with Microsoft's increased focus on the cloud, data within the new offering can be ported across devices, including Windows Phones and Windows-powered tablets. In addition, enterprise customers will have the ability to bundle the platform along with Office 365, the company's new cloud-productivity platform.
"The interoperability between Microsoft Dynamics and cloud services, such as Windows Azure and Office 365, presents an enormous opportunity for partners to deliver a complete business productivity experience to customers and to grow their businesses," Kirill Tatarinov, president of Microsoft Business Solutions, wrote in a July 12 statement ahead of his keynote address at Los Angeles' Staples Center.
During the aforementioned speech, he took a more philosophical bent toward Microsoft's business software. "The only constant in the world is change," he told the audience. "We're setting up a future where every business can be dynamic ... we build tools, systems and methodologies that empower and enable business."
But make no mistake: Microsoft is very much concerned with blunting competitive forays by the likes of Salesforce.com and Google into the areas of CRM and online productivity.
Those battles have become increasingly intense. In December 2010, for example, Microsoft took a hard swipe at Salesforce, posting "An Open Letter to Salesforce.com Customers" in which it dangled a $200-per-user rebate for any organization that switched from its upstart cloud-computing rival. That followed on the heels of tit-for-tat lawsuits over intellectual property, a situation resolved in August when Salesforce agreed to compensate Microsoft for its patents.
Now that Microsoft has announced all these updated products, of course, the next big question is how its rivals will respond.