Is Integration Key to Microsoft's Success in the Cloud?

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When I first started writing about technology, it seemed to me many companies had neglected one of the basic rules we all learned in kindergarten: Play well with others.


Somewhat dishearteningly, it seemed to work for them as a market strategy. Microsoft, Apple, Palm, not to mention the big enterprise software vendors-no matter where you looked, the rule of the tech playground was if you want to play with me, you have to play my game.


And we wonder why integration is such a huge issue now?


The cloud is quickly changing that playground bully paradigm, and, if Azure's pending release is any indication, even Microsoft, one of the biggest bullies, is embracing interoperability.


A recent Forbes article highlights this new play-well-with-others attitude, noting that in addition to the .NET programming languages, Azure will support PHP, MySQL and open source tools. Azure will also support some products that are designed using open-source tools. The article quotes two tech journalist, both of whom found this news shocking. In fact, "shocking" is exactly the term Joe Wilcox at Betanews used:

I must say it was simply shocking to see WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg on the PDC stage. The message: Azure isn't just about Microsoft products or development tools.

But, of course, this isn't about being nice. Integration is smart business, and with Azure, Microsoft seems to be covering all its integration/interoperability bases, whether it's integrating with enterprise software, supporting other languages and open source tools, or supporting companies as they move to AND from the cloud.


In fact, during a recent ebizQ discussion, the majority seemed to think integration could play a key role in whether Microsoft emerges as a cloud winner or just another face in the crowd. JP Morgenthal, the Tech Evangelist blogger and a principal architect, put it this way:

Of all the Cloud platforms, Microsoft's is the only one I have seen to date focus on the issues of integration with the Enterprise environment. Most of the other Cloud providers and Cloud tool providers are focusing on green field environments. As usual, Azure will have an advantage in Windows/.NET development shops as the platform for deploying and scaling Windows/.NET applications.

But as IT consutlant and writer Marcus Noel points out, the big question is whether Microsoft will go far enough with integration, or return to its old tricks once it has established a foothold in the cloud:

I think one factor will hinge on how open towards integration Microsoft intends to be with other Cloud Offerings like Amazon ECS. The customer should have choices and exercising those choices or conducting trials of the various offerings should not be a cost-prohibitive exercise. If Microsoft implements too much vendor lock-in and negates the proposed advantages of the Cloud, powerful as MS appears to be, it could give all of Cloud Computing a bad image.

Only one thing is certain: Whatever Microsoft does, no matter how its leadership or business philosophy may change, it's still the kid we're all keeping our eyes on at recess.