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On The Horizon: Microsoft’s Cloud Utility

Could Microsoft become the next Consolidated Edison? It could happen.

Previously I asserted that resistance to Cloud Computing is pointless. With Microsoft’s unveiling of The Azure Services Platform last week, it certainly seems to lend support to position. Ordinarily, I might find myself railing against anything Microsoft does but here I find I’m trying to hide my conspicuous grin on this one. Microsoft’s entry into Cloud Computing means that there’s more than hype to it — there’s gold in that Cloud — in fact, there’s so much potential gold that Cloud-based providers, like Microsoft, have a very good chance of becoming a utility.

Is such a thing possible? Not only is it possible but I believe it’s inevitable. I’d be surprised if Microsoft hadn’t already considered such an undertaking.

Microsoft produces the world’s most popular integrated office suite, the most popular Desktop OS, and the .NET development platform that is mimicked in our own open source world as the Mono Project — and as much as it pains the open source community to admit it; people want and use their products. Microsoft also knows that there’s money in providing common applications and services in a client Operating System agnostic fashion — meaning that if you have a Windows Desktop, a Mac, Linux, or no Desktop OS at all, you can access their applications and services and pay for them as you go.

They don’t have any plans, however, to abandon their Desktop OS, Server OS, or any of their other “heavy” locally installed applications anytime soon since they realize that they will continue to receive a steady revenue stream from those until the Compute utility is born and the traditional PC is dead.

No, Microsoft isn’t the only player in the Cloud Computing field but they are the largest and best-funded team in the league. They’ll survive the competition and absorb, destroy, and recruit until only the other giants (potential Compute utility providers) remain standing. This same scenario played-out previously with telephone companies, electricity providers, and other services eventually creating the utilities that you use today.

You could have your own telephone service, make your own electricity, purify your own water, and explore, store, and use your own natural gas reserves, and although you could, you probably don’t and won’t. And, chances are that you won’t run your own Cloud either. You’ll pay for computing services alongside your telephone, cable television, electric, natural gas, and water. It makes perfect sense to think of a Compute utility to handle our data, applications, and yes, even our Desktop operating system. A Compute utility is a natural progression — an evolution of sorts for this kind of service.

So where does Linux enter into this fantasy world of mine where Microsoft is the next Con Edison? This is Linux Magazine, after all, so what about Linux in this grand notion of Microsoft as a Compute utility provider. Don’t worry; I haven’t forgotten Linux and neither has Microsoft. Microsoft created broad agreements with Xandros and Novell, who are both major players in the Linux world. Microsoft will not only offer their applications in that operating systems agnostic format (web) that I spoke of earlier but also they’ll offer your favorite Desktop (Linux, of course) as an optional part of their service. Clever isn’t it?

Cloud Computing began its meager existence as utility computing — a niche of sorts. It now enjoys being the topic of much speculation, from floating Desktops and always-available applications to becoming as all-encompassing as the Internet itself. It returns to its true roots and its original purpose: Utility Computing. Who will create and own those utilities is also a matter of speculation but I have an idea that our friends in Redmond already have a blueprint.

Author’s Note: [Hey, Microsoft, just in case you hadn't considered this whole Compute utility thing before, you need to hire me to design and promote this new concept for you. You know where I am.]

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