I asked Muglia how cloud computing is affecting Microsoft's business and bottom line. In his answer, he was keen to emphasise the company already has substantial cloud business: "Xbox live is one of the largest paid consumer services in the world."
Muglia added: "Windows Azure is still early days for us, but our expectation is that over time the cloud services will become a very large part of our business."
In my view, the body language has changed. When Microsoft announced Windows Azure in October 2008, it felt as if Microsoft was dragging itself into the cloud business. At the Professional Developers Conference in October 2009, Microsoft announced Azure would open for business in February, but again, it seemed halfhearted, and it was developer platform vice president Scott Guthrie with Silverlight 4.0 who grabbed the limelight.
TechEd New Orleans is different. Muglia understands what is happening and presents Microsoft's cloud platform with conviction. In addition, the engineering side of Azure seems to be working.
Early adopters have expressed frustration with the tools and sometimes the cost, but not the performance or reliability. Despite its conflicted strategy, which the company spins as hybrid, Microsoft's cloud push is finally happening, at least on the server and tools side of the business. ®
If the strategy was truly balanced, do you think that the best example they could come up with for a business-related question would be to point out how many people are signed up for Xbox live? Not that there is any coercion involved in getting those consumer sign-ups, of course - there are so many alternatives once you have actually bought an Xbox after all...
"Muglia said there are now 40 million customers for hosted Exchange, SharePoint, and Live Meeting"
I wonder what percentage of that 40 million is using only using Exchange? Pretty high is my guess. Sharepoint and Live Meeting are only mentioned here in case people have forgotten they exist.
There are lots of thorny issues with 'cloud' at the moment which need to be resolved...
> Terms and conditions are generally in huge favour of the provider, and aren't generally negotiable
> Who owns the data
> How is the data secured
> Who REALLY owns the data....
> Can your data be looked at by Governments (i.e. where is it held)
> What happens if it all goes titsup? Can you get your data back?
> What happens if you miss a payment (say you are in dispute)? Some Ts & Cs I've seen say that they terminate your service immediately and you may lose your data
> Can your organisation survive spade fade / last mile type outages because they will equal loss of service
> Is it really cheaper. Make sure you know all the costs on an apples for apples basis
There's a lot to think about, and I don't see that the answers are all there yet.