Industry News Desk
Cloud Computing Expo - Cloud Spotting
Microsoft's forecast - and its margin implications - is nothing to sneeze at
By: Maureen O'Gara
Aug. 18, 2008 10:15 PM
Since Microsoft’s forecast – and its margin implications – is nothing to sneeze at, we asked industry analyst and cloud spotter Amy Wohl what she has been seeing.
“The first thing to keep in mind is that we have some semantic confusion, as is usual at this stage of a new market, around just what is a cloud. We are now pretty sure that what we used to call grids and what we now call clouds is the same thing. But we also have things called “platforms” that seem to be very much like a kind of cloud (and are sometimes called clouds) and then there is SaaS itself which looks very much like a cloud with some application software (and some SaaS vendors describe their offering just that way). I’d say we can agree that a cloud is managed computing power, often with applications, accessed across the Internet. And I’ll agree that a company can have its own cloud, if it wants one.
“IBM has finally enunciated a vision for its cloud computing that makes sense for IBM and its customers. It offers a very high-end version of cloud computing (virtually unlimited amounts of power, up to and including mainframe systems, backed by its
“IBM actually offers even more choices that may be less obvious. IBM provides a platform to ISVs who want to offer SaaS applications. In that it is very much like other platform vendors like Salesforce.com, eBay, Google or Amazon. A major difference here is whether the platform owner is also an application provider (like Salesforce.com), whose ISVs are related to his application offering or whether the platform provider is simply offering managed computing, perhaps with some technical assistance and/or some marketing oomph. (IBM offers both.)
“It was reported last week that Microsoft is moving to the cloud. In this case, Microsoft means it is going to offer at least one of its applications, Exchange, as a hosted application (SaaS) from its own cloud. Microsoft intends to continue on the road of “software-plus-service,” meaning that you to use a PC on your desk with Office to make use of the Internet-based services that Microsoft also provides. What seems to be moving to Microsoft Clouds are not personal productivity apps (a la Google or Yahoo’s Zimbra), but shared services (mail, collaboration, customer relationship management). Microsoft has been quick to note that this is a big initiative and that in five years they would expect half their customers to use Exchange as a service. This is not just something for smaller customers, either. Microsoft already has some large enterprise like Coke, with 75,000 seats.
“Microsoft has other online (perhaps cloud) services such as its Live services and new Live Mesh service for synchronizing devices of every kind. It is also testing a consumer version of Office that will combine a basic version of desktop Office with an array of online services.
“Last Friday, I spoke with Workday, a SaaS ERP company I’ve been tracking since its start. It’s stirred up quite a bit of attention, boldly claiming last April that its feature set would be at parity with SAP by next fall. So far, it’s on schedule with its product plans, with hefty HR offerings, including payroll and expenses, and a substantial portion of its financial offerings. Look at its latest Workday 4.0 offering at its web site. More interesting is the fact that although it didn’t expect to move beyond the mid-market into the enterprise until more of its product was completed, it already has a number of large enterprises and more in their pipeline.
“Recently I attended a Digital Transformation Forum at
“Think of it this way:
“And no doubt, someone, somewhere, is dreaming up some other things to do with clouds.
“I sense several likely outcomes:
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