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IT pros seek details on Microsoft cloud computing strategy

Windows managers want Microsoft to pull together its cloud story into a cohesive whole. The company is expected to flesh out its plans at this year’s TechEd conference.

In recent years, Microsoft has dribbled bits and pieces of its cloud computing strategy on the Windows manager faithful. Now they think it’s time for the company to articulate a cohesive story.

I think Microsoft is at a point in its cloud evolution where it needs a bigger picture presented.

Dana Gardner, president and principal analyst, Interarbor Solutions, Inc.

Microsoft has a golden opportunity to do so at TechEd North America in Atlanta next week. The company has certainly produced a steady stream of news about Windows Azure, Office 365, Intune and a handful of other online-based applications and tools over the past couple of years. But IT pros still seek clarity on Microsoft’s cloud vision as it cobbles together these piece parts, much in the way IBM did in its cloud announcement last month.

"I think Microsoft is at a point in its cloud evolution where it needs a bigger picture presented,” said Dana Gardner, president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Inc. in Gilford, N.H. “It does have some building blocks but IT shops wonder how they (IT shops) can bring this together with existing infrastructures in a harmonious way so they aren't throwing out the baby with the bath water,"

With fast moving cloud competitors, such as Google and Amazon, which lack the on-premises infrastructure baggage owned by Microsoft, the software company might be wise to state its intentions to enterprises sooner rather than later.

"Microsoft has had trouble before communicating comprehensive strategies, as was the case with its on-premises software,” Gardner added. “It can't afford to make that mistake again with a lot of other players now pointing to the Microsoft hairball and offering cleaner, pure-play cloud offerings."

The adoption of cloud strategies can bring with it added expense and technological uncertainty. For this reason, IT professionals would find real world success stories involving a collection of Microsoft products somewhat reassuring.

"I know exactly what my IT costs are right now for things like licenses, people and upgrades,” said Eugene Lee, a systems administrator with a large bank. “But with the cloud those fixed costs can become unpredictable, so I need to know more about how all this would work. I would like to see some success stories from some (Windows-based) cloud shops.”

How much of the big picture Microsoft reveals publicly about its cloud strategy at this year's conference remains unclear. Corporate executives are expected to disclose more details about the company’s cloud strategy with regard to the Windows Azure Platform, SQL Azure and the Windows Azure App Fabric, though the company declined to comment on details.

"Even a little more visibility on how seamlessly, or not, applications written for the Azure (platform) will work with Office 365 could be useful for planning purposes," Lee said.

IT pros can also expect to hear more about the next generation of its management suite, System Center 2012. The latest version of the suite adds Concero, a tool that lets administrators manage virtual machines running on Microsoft Hyper-V through System Center Virtual Machine Manager. The software also lets administrators manage a variety of services that run on Windows Azure and Azure-based appliances.

Let us know what you think about this story; email Ed Scannell at

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