For a company with about 90 percent of the operating system market, Microsoft has been painfully, if not ineptly slow to introduce a cloud strategy to capitalize on its market strength in desktop and server computing.
However, this year, the company upped its game in the cloud, wrapping its strategy around the “infrastructure-to-application” model.
In January, it teamed with HP, promising to deliver cloud computing solutions via prepackaged servers, storage, software, and networking gear. HP and Microsoft said they would commit to spending $250 million over three years to combine some research and development efforts.
"The cloud is the driving force behind this deal," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the time.
Last week, Ballmer told attendees at Microsoft’s CEO Summit that the future of software will be in the cloud.
"It's a place where we will all work,” he said with visionary gusto.
Ballmer’s forward-looking statement was backed up by Microsoft product news the same week.
At its Application Infrastructure Virtual Launch event, the vendor unveiled two pillars of its strategy to push private clouds -- the first beta of BizTalk Server 2010, and the release candidate for Windows Server AppFabric.
Together with the already available Windows Azure AppFabric, Windows Server AppFabric and BizTalk Server 2010 from Microsoft’s application infrastructure technologies, said Cliff Simpkins, senior product manager, Microsoft.
Simkins said the new products benefit developers and IT pros by delivering cloud-like elasticity, high availability, faster performance, seamless connectivity, and simplified composition for applications.
BizTalk Server 2010 is the newest version of Microsoft's enterprise service bus (ESB) product, which allows different enterprise applications to access one another's data, even when different formats and data stores are involved.
The new BizTalk Server supports AppFabric, Windows Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2008 R. It adds a unified management dashboard and support for features such as compressed backup and transparent data encryption.
The beta is available immediately, with the final release to follow in the third quarter of 2010.
AppFabric, a new product, is an add-on to Windows Server that comes in two parts -- caching and hosting -- and aims to aid application development and deployment across public and private clouds.
AppFabric Caching Services is a distributed, high-performance, in-memory object cache. The feature speeds up access to frequently used data by distributing it to a pool of cache servers. It supports features such as safe concurrent modifications and notifications to alert cache clients when data has been changed.
AppFabric Hosting Services provides tools for deploying, managing and controlling applications built using Windows Communication Foundation and Windows Workflow Foundation.
The release candidate for AppFabric is available now, with the final release due in June. The product will be free to existing license holders of Windows Server 2008.
BizTalk Server 2010 works with Windows Server AppFabric to enable developers to more rapidly build composite applications that connect to disparate line-of-business systems through BizTalk Adapters and BizTalk Transformations from within .NET development environments.
One company that has already seen the benefits of Microsoft’s cloud tools is Expertime, a Microsoft partner.
“With Windows Server AppFabric, BizTalk Server, and the .NET Framework, we’ve seen customers achieve up to a 70 percent reduction in IT costs and increased connectivity,” said Philippe Lacroix, Expertime’s CTO.