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Ray Ozzie Explains Cloud Computing For The Enterprise

Microsoft's chief software architect on what IT departments should expect from the Azure Services Platform, Microsoft's answer to on-demand computing services.

INFORMATIONWEEK: Can you give us an idea of the amount of internal resources that are going to this development project and a little bit about how much more work is to be done?

OZZIE: That's an interesting question, because underlying that question is a value judgment of what that number really means. To me, less is better, so I don't know how you would judge it. All I can say is this: From a services transformation perspective basically everyone in the company, all of our products are in some way, shape, or form being transformed by the fact that there is a services component to it. The SQL group is fairly impacted. Obviously the Live group, they've always been impacted. They are a service at birth, but that group has grown because of the appearance of things like Mesh, which are platform technologies.

I don't know if I should give you an order of magnitude. The Windows Azure project has grown like most new projects should grow, and I'll give it to you in an abstract way. Any new effort, if you don't start it in the range of, I'll say, 10 to 50 people, you're throwing too many people on the project too soon. You're not going to create something that's very coherent. So you get just A players, the smallest number of A players you can, and then you start broadening out. We're in the broadening out phase right now.

But it's a serious project. It's got significant capital expenditures for the data center infrastructure necessary to host these things. It's an operating system.

INFORMATIONWEEK: The Office Web application demonstrated today looked rudimentary. Is that an indication that it will be relatively rudimentary in what they can do?

OZZIE: Tell me in what ways you say rudimentary?

INFORMATIONWEEK: I don't get a sense of the scope of collaboration that would be capable, real time collaboration across the Web and the client app, if it's going to be different in the different applications, if there are deeper features than just being able to see what somebody else is typing.

OZZIE: Well, I'll tell you how the project was approached, without saying what state they're in. They are being developed by the core group that's developing Office. It's not an adjunct, not a little thing off to the side. It's treated as a part of the core, and, I can say this, it's the same source code. A lot of it is the same source code.

The issue is we put a primary pivot on the scenario that you and I need to work together on something. I can be using the Web; you don't need to know. That design decision very early on dictated what pieces of code really had to be the same code that's operating in the service and on the client and so on.

And, just like there are PC-native features that only exist on the PC, there are Web-native features that only exist on the Web. I would say we're probably less mature on that. There are some, but we're less mature on that because our primary pivot was round-tripping.

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