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Microsoft: Cloud 'Much Smaller' Than Server Business

An executive at Microsoft's Server and Tools Division offered some perspectives on Microsoft's cloud vision on Monday.

Charles Di Bona, general manager of Microsoft Server and Tools, claimed that Microsoft is the only company that offers public cloud, private cloud and hybrid solutions to its potential customers. He spoke in San Francisco at the CLSA Asia USA Forum for investors.

Microsoft's cloud position is not too new, but it's become a little more nuanced after about a year's time. The company's marketing term for this scenario used to be called "Software Plus Services." However, lately 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 March 2010, announcing a major business shift at that time. However, Di Bona admitted in his talk that new technologies, such as Windows Azure, never wholly 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," Di Bona said, according to a Microsoft transcript (Word doc). "And that's going to continue to be the way it is for the foreseeable future 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 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 infrastructure-as-a-service 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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