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Microsoft Defines Its Cloud Terms at Investor Event

An executive within Microsoft's Server and Tools division gave investors some perspective on Microsoft's cloud vision on Monday, at the CLSA Asia USA Forum in San Francisco.

Charles Di Bona, a Microsoft Server and Tools general manager, claimed that Microsoft is the only company that offers public, private and hybrid cloud solutions to potential customers. The old Microsoft marketing term for this scenario is "Software Plus Services." However, Di Bona's talk underlined the notion that Microsoft's cloud position -- while not new -- has evolved over the years; lately, in fact, Microsoft just talks "cloud," and describes companies that deploy their own servers in datacenters as deploying "private clouds." Windows Azure, by contrast, is Microsoft's "public cloud."

Microsoft went "all in" for the cloud in last March, signaling a major business shift at that time. However, Di Bona said at the forum that new technologies such as Windows Azure will never completely supplant the old ones, such as Microsoft server technologies.

"The reality is that the cloud part of our business is much smaller than the server part of our business," he said. "And that's going to continue to be the way it is for the foreseeable future here." (Read the transcript here.)

Microsoft has "tens of thousands of customers on Azure, and increasingly on Office 365," Di Bona said.

Microsoft's $17 billion Server and Tools business produces Windows Server, SQL Server and Windows Azure, all of which Di Bona described as "the infrastructure for data centers." That division doesn't include Office 365, which is organized under Microsoft Online Services.

Di Bona claimed that 75 percent of new server shipments use the Windows Server operating system for private cloud deployments. Microsoft sees its System Center management software products as a key component for private datacenters, whether they use Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware products for virtualization. He said that Microsoft's System Center financials were "up over 20 percent year over year."

Microsoft sees its cloud future with Windows Azure more in the Platform as a Service (PaaS) realm, offering support for multiple programming platforms besides .NET. In contrast, Amazon Web Services is a more static Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) play, Di Bona contended, but he said that's changing.

"And we see Amazon trying to add now PAS [Platform as a Service] componentry on top of what they do. So we think that where we ended up is the right place."

Microsoft is building IaaS capabilities into Windows Azure, Di Bona said. He cited interoperability with other frameworks, such as the open source Apache Hadoop, as an example. Microsoft is partnering with Horton Works on Hadoop interoperability with Windows Azure and Windows Server. Hadoop, which supports big data-type projects, was originally fostered by Yahoo.

"So, it [Hadoop] is a new framework that is not ours," Di Bona said. "We're embracing it, because we understand that for a lot of big data solutions that is clearly the way a lot of developers and end-users and customers want to go, at least for that part of what they do."

Di Bona's talk at the CLSA Asia USA Forum can be accessed at Microsoft's investor relations page here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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