Cloud Computing Competition Gathers Steam

Kachina Shaw

If you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, maybe you can make a buzz word stickier if it sounds pleasant and delightful rather than scary and mean. On a Wednesday that feels like the third Monday in a row, I'm ready for some cloud computing. Who wouldn't be?


As it happens, IBM is announcing that it's about to release products and services in a "Blue Cloud," probably attracting first its Global Services customers to follow their trusted vendor into its cloud -- remote applications and storage on an IBM/open source network. And nobody ever got fired for going with IBM, right?


Conventional wisdom seems to be that the race among vendors to gather users into their clouds is mostly about trust, not technology. IBM says Blue Cloud is based on a research project it has been running with Google to get tools to computer science students to create apps for cloud computing. Cloud computing, says this blog post from Dean Takahashi at The Mercury News, is the next generation of grid computing, going beyond high-performance computing to real-time results based on parallel or "massively parallel" code.


Announcements like these are putting the pressure on Microsoft to refine its cloud strategy. Move too soon and it'll cannibalize its own operating systems. Too late, and it'll lose customers ready to make a switch that is being presented by vendors as cost-saving, energy-saving and time-saving. Web-based operating systems from competitors are far from ready for prime time, but they are coming along.


Steve Ballmer prefers to see a move toward so-called cloud computing based on something simpler and easier for Microsoft to contain. He said at a recent Gartner Symposium that a Web-based version of Office could never perform as well as a desktop version, but that:

"I think the things people are moving to is not from OS agnosticism; they want an easy install."

Microsoft Office Live Workspace, now in beta, will test that theory, as enterprise users will have the opportunity, so to speak, to use Microsoft-hosted or partner-hosted Office suites to collaborate, but without full document editing capabilities.


Effective marketing, not Microsoft's strong suit, would seem to be key to building the kind of trust it'll want around its "cloudy" desktop experience.


On an only somewhat related note, when I typed the string "Microsoft cloud computing" into Google News today, I was immediately distracted by a prompt above my search results inviting me to "Search news source Computing for Microsoft cloud."


It threw me for a few minutes until I determined that it was inserting "source:" ahead of the word computing and offering me results from that publication, a practice my boss said was, "like something Microsoft would do."

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