• 10/29/2008
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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: There's a list of concerns that CIOs have -- security, governance, data integration between one service and another service. How do you respond?

OZZIE: There are even more. In composite services, there are issues of latency when something is in one data center and another piece is in another. This is why it's a good thing to begin dipping your toe in the water. It's not a panacea, and it's not something that I think people should fear. It's a huge opportunity for cost savings and better scalability, a variety of things, but you have to grow to become comfortable with it.

There are certain things that I'm extremely confident of that most enterprises will get over, things that I used to be worried about [such as] information confidentiality issues. At least forMicrosoft (NSDQ: MSFT), we've been under extreme scrutiny for a number of years in terms of our data handling practices, and we're very transparent. We can make it very clear and make most enterprises comfortable with the fact that their data will be handled well. We are another third party, though, so there are law enforcement issues that enterprise should be aware of.

But the flip side of the coin is the promise that, in our cloud, we can bring services to many enterprises that they never would have deployed themselves. We can do auditing functions and information rights management functions in the cloud that might take some configuration and management that many smaller or medium-sized companies wouldn't have bothered to deploy. We can bridge their communication systems to mobile devices and do a lot of things that might have required more investment of IT on premises.

INFORMATIONWEEK: You mentioned cost-savings. Is cloud computing really cheaper?

OZZIE: That's not the single reason that somebody should do it. If somebody wants to expense something rather than capitalize it, they can do that through leasing and things like that. There are some financial reasons, but that's not the primary reason. The primary reason is really if you're going to have people, headcount, employees, do you want to be training those employees in how to manage F5 load balancers, how to doCisco (NSDQ: CSCO) IOS, and debug high-scale network problems? Do you want to have the coordination between the operations personnel and the development personnel in order to ensure the kind of availability that you need? We can bring a lot of that experience to bear.

Ten years from now we're going to look back at this era and wonder how we did without this other kind of computer in the cloud, because for so many things that will be the default place that we'll just run it. We won't run everything there, and if you didn't get the message yesterday, we keep saying the power of choice, the power of choice. One of the things that we are trying to communicate is that enterprises have a broad variety of different needs, and we're going to offer them on-premises with all the controls that they need. If you're a government that has a network that's disconnected from the Internet, you're going to want those server-based products. If you want to control the versioning and exactly when things are changed for your employee base, we'll give you all the ability to do that. But if you want to take advantage of the service-deployed way of doing those same things, we'll also deliver that.

INFORMATIONWEEK: When will enterprises be able to take advantage of Windows Azure?

OZZIE: I can't tell you exactly when. I can tell you it's not going to be in '08, but over the course of '09 we will pay attention to what these developers [at PDC] tell us. There are a lot of capabilities that are in Azure that are not unlocked, and there are capabilities that we have not yet implemented. Based on what these folks tell us, we will prioritize things differently. So, I'm not trying to be evasive; I'm simply saying that we just don't know.

That said, it will probably be first utilized as the Web tier of things they do, the Web front-ends. The simple, stateless kinds of machines that they run will be the first things that go up into the cloud in terms of them coding against Azure directly. They'll be using it indirectly through online, because the online properties will use it, the Mesh stuff will use it, a lot of things will use it.

There are other ways, too, such as Exchange hosted services. Those things are all being ported over to Azure, so that when somebody subscribes to message archiving, the message archives are going into SQL in the cloud, and so on. But directly it's probably going to be the simpler front-ends.

Over time they will then begin to experiment with Web enterprise applications and build from there. It will be generally be new applications, not existing ones.

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