Microsoft are all in – is this panic in the Clouds for some?

With Microsoft’s latest push to Cloud computing, the field is likely to change significantly in many ways. For developers, a mixed-blessing as they can target the Cloud but at the same time need to architect more carefully than before. For competitors, this could mean going back to the drawing board and reviewing those marketing materials. For the end-users, security could become a nigthmare fairly quickly.

I read the news today oh boy,
the Redmond giant has just joined the war.
(my bad retake on a Beatles classic, I love The Beatles)

Now that Microsoft is all in the Cloud, things are set to change in some significant ways. Like it or not, Microsoft is doing what they’ve always done: embrace a technology promise with the intention to rule it. I’ve read a few articles and blogs mocking Microsoft’s Cloud announcement, which I found to be a misguided view on the tech giant.

Few would have forgotten, there was a time when Microsoft was scorning the Internet. Eventually, they turned around and entered the web browser market, and bossed it comprehensively, wiping out Netscape’s market in the process.

Microsoft all in the Cloud, There’s something in it for everyone.

For Microsoft Competitors: is it, Panic in the Cloud yet?

At the very least, lots of people will now have to scrub their presentation slides and other flyers, positioning Cloud as an alternative to Microsoft has become a confusing message, no longer a differentiator. Regardless of how they do it, if Microsoft says that they’re in, buyers will take notice and start to ponder their position, markets will react. That is what matters the most to Microsoft’s clients and partners alike, they’re definitely avoiding the fate of WordPerfect.

For Visual Studio Developers: is it, the strongest will surf the Cloud?

Enabling Visual Studio developers to directly target Cloud platform will be a huge empowerment to lots of developers. The ability to develop and package Azure applications from within Visual Studio is going to hit the right chord for many. The bad news is that, more than ever sound architecture design will determine success and failure. The finest developers will be able to do really nice stuff, those who just click their way to a solution will probably create a lot of mess.

For Windows users: is it, the Cloud sets you free?

With Windows applications becoming first-class Cloud clients, it become possible to manage documents on the Cloud natively from Windows and Ms Office products. The notion of office application development is extended, the office becomes virtual in a way. This could be a stretch for infrastructure management, which is likely to become significantly harder and fragmented. A lot of IT managers might be scratching their heads over this prospect, strategic sourcing might become more crucial to some organisations.

Should IT managers not buy into Microsoft’s Cloud story, this could be another “Vista moment” for Microsoft. On the other hand, we know that the knowledge worker has been clamouring to be set free of work location. Cloud enablement for the masses of Windows users could actually force IT management to accelerate their Cloud adoption schedule.

Accidental IT infrastructure tsars

Some of the most successful innovations in IT infrastructure have come about by accident, by groups who couldn’t even be taken seriously when they started their venture. Is this the beginning of a bigger movement? Is this the edge of what an Agile culture could nurture?

In the past decade, some of the most successful IT infrastructure innovations have been stumbled upon, after the originators found themselves in unanticipated conundrum! In some instances, this kind of anarchic R&D is reaping rewards of several orders of magnitude higher than walled-in research efforts.

Think about it for a moment, we are enjoying an amazing array of technology that were created after some dudes’ fiddles and ramblings forced them to rethink their infrastructure. In their travails, clever & bohemian as they are, they’ve come up with solutions that many of us can enjoy. Witnessing such success, deep pocketed vendors joined in the fun, and the field is being redefined in the process.

Once frowned upon, FaceBook is now a leading contributor to prominent open source infrastructure projects. Google’s track record is longer and deeper, their data centre innovations are being copied around the world, their latest announcement in the U.S. is just illustrating how far reaching their ambitions are. The whole No SQL movement has spawned a category of data manipulation techniques forcing a rethink of the way we manage information. Google, Yahoo! and FaceBook are all strong leaders in this space. The best example is probably the open source Unix/Linux ecosystem (counting in the OpenBSD and FreeBSD variants, which are not Linuxes). What is happening with the uptake of Cloud computing is simply amazing, would make many a veteran chuckle (isn’t this what was supposed to be uncool?). Now that heavyweights such as Oracle and Microsoft are trumpeting the Cloud, we are probably entering a new era where mix-and-match will become a norm.

These infrastructure innovations are making it easier and faster for us to do more with our computing resources. Incidentally, this is also making us more vulnerable and fragile from a security point of view. Security breaches can do much more damage much faster than ever before. This could mean that our security infrastructure is simply being thrown out, forcing us to rethink the very notion of security.

Marketing mantra aside, here looking at you Google, these infrastructure innovations have had a profound impact on the way we perform computing these days. A substantial amount of these innovations were actually not planned, they seem to have been following a kind of Darwinian evolution theory, the good ones quickly gain traction and everyone adjust their positions.

Is this the beginning of a bigger and truly world changing movement? Is this a vindication of the open source phenomenon? Is this the edge of what an Agile (Californian?) culture could nurture?

Time will tell.