How Microsoft could beat Google and even AWS to lead the cloud

Of the three main public cloud contenders, Microsoft has the most baggage, the most to lose, and the most to gain

Microsoft Azure took an unexpected dirt nap last week. This is not good news for Microsoft, which identified the Azure IaaS and PaaS cloud as key to its success. Azure competes against Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Verizon, and others, with AWS and Google as the main rivals. Among such contenders, Azure can't afford many missteps.

I don't take outages seriously unless they start to form a pattern. All public cloud providers, Microsoft included, are learning how to operate a public cloud service in real time. Outages are a fact of life, at least occasionally. Notice that the other cloud providers did not chime in with criticism? They know they could be next, and nearly all have experienced their own outages.

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Overall, Microsoft is in second place in the cloud market -- way, way behind AWS. How far behind depends on which numbers you believe. Google is also coming on strong. It could have parity with and perhaps surpass Microsoft very soon. People forget that Google understands how to do "Web scale" and has a marketing machine and strong brand.

On the other hand, Microsoft has a new CEO and a pretty loyal user base, and the company seems willing to change quickly around market opportunities. It could fend off Google and perhaps even over time catch up to AWS. Here's how.

First, Microsoft needs to provide a benefit that other cloud providers don't. There is not much in its stack today that provides a unique value. Microsoft's patterns are consistent with the other providers, from big data to developer services.

Second, learn how to work behind the existing developer base. Many of Microsoft's developers jumped ship to the AWS cloud, and now Microsoft needs to make AWS and Google developers jump ship to Microsoft. Create or expand aggressive recruiting and incentive programs right now. It needs to grab share for the next 20 years.

Finally, focus on the basics. Last week's cloud outage and "wobbly" behavior before the outage means that someone took their eye off the operational ball. If Microsoft can't keep the services running, it is dead in the water. But a single outage does not make a trend.

Microsoft has tough years ahead. Of the three public cloud contenders, it has the most baggage. It also has the most to lose, as well as the most to gain.

This article, "How Microsoft could beat Google and even AWS to lead the cloud," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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