Microsoft exec: We 'get' the cloud

In an hourlong interview, Microsoft's Bob Muglia offered a surprisingly clear cloud computing vision. Can Microsoft make good on it?

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Muglia asserts that customers are lining up for the Azure Appliance; the first customers, he says, are deploying across 1000 servers. He adds that the Appliance will be able to serve as a gateway to the public Azure service and support bursting capabilities -- that is, when customers exhaust their local infrastructure resources, they can extend their Azure platform by consuming Microsoft resources in the Azure public cloud.

Looking toward the future, Muglia also understands that that no cloud provider will have a lock on customers. He claims that Microsoft is committed to supporting a multiplatform, multivendor cloud future:

I think the most important thing is going to be interoperability between clouds. I think in the end people will look and say: 'The most important characteristic I have is that I need the cloud services that I have to fully interoperate. And then I also need to have choice of vendor.'

Those are probably the two main things. And in both areas we're investing significantly. All of the services that we're doing in our clouds are based on Internet standards, either Web services or REST-based protocols, pretty much exclusively. So we've used those sets of standardized protocols as we've been building out our clouds.

Having followed Microsoft's huge investment in Web services protocols, I can confirm that Muglia's answer goes beyond the usual vendor "we love standards" claptrap. He even noted that the most exciting thing about cloud computing will be the wealth of new applications developers will mash up using services across platforms -- an impossibility without interoperability. But of course, as many have noted, lock-in is one of the biggest risks of putting your eggs in someone else's cloud basket. It's hard to imagine that changing anytime soon.

Microsoft claims to have been making huge investments in cloud computing. It's been two and a half years since Microsoft's Tim O'Brien, director of Microsoft's Platform Strategy Group, told me the company was building "data centers you can see from space" in its ramp-up to the cloud -- and two years since Windows Azure was announced. And of late, as Muglia's responses suggest, they've gotten the rhetoric right.

But can Microsoft deliver cloud versions of its applications, servers, and environments in a way that pleases customers and doesn't mash up the company's revenue model? I think maybe they can, but it's taking a long time to find out.

This article, "Microsoft exec: We 'get' the cloud," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter and on your mobile device at infoworldmobile.com.

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