Feeds

Conviction and confusion in Microsoft's cloud strategy

With progress comes ambiguity

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Microsoft TechEd Microsoft's Windows platform may be under attack from the cloud, but you wouldn't know it here at the company's TechEd in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The conference is a sell-out, with 10,500 attendees mostly on the IT professional side of the industry, in contrast to last year's event in Los Angeles, California, which only attracted around 7,000. Microsoft, too, seems upbeat.

"We are at the cusp of a major transformation in the industry called cloud computing," server and tools president Bob Muglia said as he set the theme of what's emerging as a hybrid strategy.

That strategy involves on-premise servers that still form most of its business, hosted services - Muglia said there are now 40 million customers for hosted Exchange, SharePoint, and Live Meeting - and the delivery of software for partners building their own cloud services.

Despite this diversity, the announcements at TechEd were mostly cloud-related.

Windows Azure itself is now updated with .NET Framework 4.0, and there are new tools for Visual Studio and an updated SDK. The tools are much improved. You can now view the status of your Azure hosted services and get read-only access to Azure data from within the Visual Studio IDE.

Debugging Azure applications is now easier thanks to a feature called IntelliTrace that keeps a configurable log of application state so you can trace errors later. Deployment is now streamlined, and it can now be done directly from the IDE rather than through an Azure portal.

The Azure database service, SQL Azure, has been updated too. It now supports spatial data types and databases up to 50GB, as promised in March. There is also a new preview of an Azure Data Synch Service, which controls synchronising data across multiple datacenters, and a web manager for SQL Server on Azure.

Microsoft AppFabric, a free add-on for Microsoft's web server, is now done. AppFabric has two features which are only loosely related. One is a distributed cache, which lets you scale web sites by caching data across multiple servers. The other is a runtime for workflow applications, and deserves more attention than it gets, not helped by the product's misleading name. Workflow applications with long-running state can be tricky to implement, and AppFabric in conjunction with new tools in Visual Studio 2010 is an interesting and rapid development approach.

Among the remaining news Microsoft announced Exchange 2010 SP1 is in beta and available to download, with the fixes and tweaks announced in April. There was a rundown of features in Office Communication Server 14, which does messaging and conferencing, a new SDK for Bing Maps, news on Microsoft's policies for distributing apps for Windows Phone 7, and news of a coming beta for Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) - an Enterprise equivalent to Windows 7 XP mode for running legacy applications.

So, does this all mean Microsoft now "gets" the cloud? There was a telling comment in the press briefing for Windows InTune, a cloud service for managing PCs that is aimed at small businesses. Product manager Alex Heaton had been explaining the benefits: easy management of PCs and laptops wherever they are, and a web application that upgrades itself, no need to install service packs or new versions.

In fact, it seemed better than tools in Small Business Server (SBS) that covers the same area. Should SBS users move over?

"It's an interesting question, when should you use the cloud based versus when should you use the on-premise," said Heaton. "The answer is, if you've already got an on-premise infrastructure that already does most of this, you're pretty much good, there's no reason for you to go to a separate infrastructure."

In reality this is not the case. There are strong reasons for small businesses to migrate to cloud-based solutions because keeping a complex on-premise server running sweetly is a burden. Microsoft is heavily invested in on-premise though and disrupting its own business is risky.

The result is a conflicted strategy.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Next page: Azure days

More from The Register

next story
Ellison: Sparc M7 is Oracle's most important silicon EVER
'Acceleration engines' key to performance, security, Larry says
Linux? Bah! Red Hat has its eye on the CLOUD – and it wants to own it
CEO says it will be 'undisputed leader' in enterprise cloud tech
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Ello? ello? ello?: Facebook challenger in DDoS KNOCKOUT
Gets back up again after half an hour though
Hey, what's a STORAGE company doing working on Internet-of-Cars?
Boo - it's not a terabyte car, it's just predictive maintenance and that
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.