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Steve Ballmer on Cloud Computing

After IBM’s ho-hum attempt to woo startups in Bangalore on April 1st, it was Microsoft’s turn to impress the ISV community in New Delhi this past Thursday.  I was glad to be present at both conferences; the “Microsoft ISV Day” focused on the relevance (nay, inevitability) of Cloud Computing without getting into being a vendor pitch.  But they did bring out the big guns with none other than Steve Ballmer kicking off the day’s proceedings  (before going off to face the press on a day when Apple passed Microsoft in market capitalization).

Ballmer started with a short video featuring his view of the future where everybody will be constantly computing: “augmented reality”, where devices, real world objects like walls and store shelves will come alive with contextual intelligence wrought by a web of information services housed in an omnipresent cloud.  He then went on to propose the cloud as the platform of the future just like mainframes and PCs had been paradigm shifts as computing platforms.

Without duplicating the reportage from the general and technical press, I wanted to highlight some  interesting points he made about the world being well on its way to transitioning to the cloud.

  • Smart devices are critical to the success of the cloud.  That explains why a company like Google has launched not one but two device operating systems [probably referring to Chrome and Android].  Apple is all about expensive devices tethered to services in the cloud [probably referring to iPod, iPad, iPhone etc with Appstores and iTunes]
  • Microsoft has a slate of technologies which together pull together their cloud offering:  Azure (compute), SQL Azure (database), IE8 (browser),  Windows 7 (operating system), Sharepoint (collaboration) and Bing (search).  Interestingly, he said the cloud would be about using meta data and social context available from services like Bing.
  • The Cloud as a platform battle is still wide open. Although Azure is a fairly new offering from MSFT, the other platforms are still teething, so anybody could win this:
    • Amazon does a  good job but only offers virtual machines.
    • Google doesn’t have a real platform service – App Engine does not present a revolutionary new model.
    • Cisco, EMC, etc. are just talking about their offerings now.
  • It’s not the technology, it’s the business models that make it Cloud : The cloud paradigm will require ISVs to do things differently:
    • Figure out how to develop and sell software differently.
    • They need to rethink their entire business, especially sales, marketing, channels and operations
    • The cloud can drive innovation more generally by making organizations  leaner so that they can focus on growing rather than the specifics of technical operations.

At this point he transformed into the Ballmer we have known – passionate  and slipping into animated impersonations of revving engines and lean machines as they benefit from cloud computing.

Q&A that followed brought up one good question: data location in cloud has come under the scrutiny of regulators . [my comment:  for example your electronic health records from Podunk, Iowa, may actually be processed and warehoused in Mexico].   I do not think Steve had a good answer to the question but some ideas thrown about included using private clouds.  In any case, he said,  national level regulator concerns may be easier to address.  Slipping to regional/state directives may not be efficient in the cloud paradigm for most jurisdictions.

When asked what food keeps him so energetic after all these years, his reply was, “I don’t know.  Must be innate energy pumped up a notch by the iced black tea I drink a lot of!”

Steve was followed by a slate of meaty vertical specific discussions of cloud computing that kept me riveted and will make good fodder for other posts.

Categories: India, Technology
  1. June 30, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Call for papers to India’s Premier Cloud Computing Conference ends 30 June ’10 bit.ly/btsummitCfP (Business Technology Summit, 11-12Nov, BLR)

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