Microsoft pushes cloud computing on reluctant IT pros

Microsoft dropped its cloud computing plans on a really tough audience - the systems management administrators gathered at MMS this week.

LAS VEGAS – Though cloud computing is high on Microsoft's agenda, IT managers attending the software vendor's annual management confab here this week either aren't ready to make the transition or simply don't want to.

IT pros at the Microsoft Management Summit 2010 were pummeled with cloud imagery as the software vendor disclosed plans for its System Center management portfolio. Some IT managers said cloud computing is interesting in theory, but they are not really sure how to make it work for their organization. IT managers are also realizing that cloud is no longer just a buzzword because – ready or not - giant vendors such as Microsoft have made it a core part of their product road maps.

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Bryan Nettles, a help desk administrator at BJ Services Company, a Houston- based chemical processor, said his organization hasn't yet looked at cloud computing services as an option. The cost differential between premises-based enterprise technology and the cost to build a private cloud are still unclear. Nettles said he buys servers and uses virtualization software from VMware Inc., though on a small scale. For him, cloud computing will remain an abstract idea for some time.

Cloud computing? Zzzzzz.

Plenty of IT managers have already had their fill of cloud computing hype. Erik Swenson, an IT manager with a construction company in Denver, expressed his frustration over the vendor fire hosing.

"Cloud computing is the new buzz and desktop virtualization is being rammed down the throats of us small IT shops before we can catch our breath," he said. "If our CFO reads about it in some business magazine he gets all excited and comes into my office asking me 'what about this, what about that?' Companies like Microsoft employ genius marketing people to make sure the 'keeping up with the Joneses' mentality holds sway. And IT people are left constantly chasing our tails in a futile effort to keep up."

But Microsoft has embraced cloud computing, as was evident in the MMS 2010 keynote. In addition, the company's CEO, Steve Ballmer, was recently quoted saying that 70% of Microsoft is dedicated to the cloud today, but it will be 90% sooner rather than later.

With statements like that, some IT pros think resistance is futile. But, they are approaching cloud computing in a conservative fashion. Aaron Cooper, a systems management solutions architect at the Royal Bank of Canada, said he has looked at cloud offerings as part of a data center relocation project, but still isn't sure how to make it work for the organization. Part of the problem is developing a long-term implementation strategy. He also has limited time and resources to plan a cloud move, he said.

But Cooper said the cost saving projections for cloud computing compared with managing a data center is "astronomical," so the project may be worthwhile.

The promise of saving money is alluring for many companies. A number of Microsoft partners say they have clients interested in cloud computing, or using cloud services such as hosted Exchange, to lower costs.

And as Microsoft charges forward with its cloud strategy, it does recognize that IT pros are reluctant to adopt cloud computing. To help bridge the world of premises and cloud services, the software company will expand some familiar systems management tools for use in cloud infrastructure management. For instance, the next version of System Center Operations Manager, due out in 2011, will monitor applications deployed in Microsoft's cloud platform, Windows Azure.

Other product availability announcements at MMS 2010 include the following:

  • The release to manufacturing (RTM) of System Center Essentials 2010 and System Center Data Protection Manager 2010
  • Upcoming beta 2 availability of Dynamic Infrastructure Toolkit for System Center
  • The next version of System Center Virtual Machine Manager is due out sometime next year
  • Microsoft will also evolve its desktop application virtualization tool, App-v, for servers. That capability will be included in the next version of Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer or follow @BridgetBotelho on Twitter.

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