Channel Watch

Gathering Clouds: Microsoft Has a Lot up There, What's Next?

In our three main features this month, we're looking at three different ways Microsoft is bringing its traditional products to the cloud. The Windows Azure Platform Appliance technically is more of a two-way street: Microsoft is boxing up the cloud and putting it into the datacenter, but the effort involves the Windows Azure platform and could enable more explosive growth of cloud platforms.

With Dynamics CRM 11 Online, Microsoft is evolving a current cloud offering. One of the things that's most interesting there is Microsoft's decision to make the cloud version of Dynamics CRM 11 available before the on-premises release.

Then there's Windows Intune, Microsoft's first effort to take System Center management technology and make it available as a service.

Looking across the Microsoft product set, the 'Softies have put a lot of their kit in the cloud already.

The Azures are the most central, and forward-looking component -- Windows Azure, SQL Azure and the Windows Azure platform, bringing the target development environment into a Microsoft datacenter rather than a company's server closet or datacenter.

Then there are the foundations of the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS): Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Office Communications Server Online and the granddaddy Web service Live Meeting.

Taken for granted are the services that were present before Microsoft went to cloud branding (or before they were even talking about Software plus Services) -- Windows Update Service, Windows Live and so on.

There are also the add-on services for products Microsoft isn't offering in full on the cloud but that the company is starting to put pieces and services up for -- the Microsoft Office Web Apps loosely fit this category and Microsoft offers a number of Web services for the Dynamics AX ERP product.

All of that has me wondering ... what's next?

The easy answer is Aurora -- the Microsoft half on-premises, half in-the-cloud version of Small Business Server, which went into beta testing in mid-August. It's for the smallest of small to midsize businesses (SMBs), companies with fewer than 25 users who rely on peer-to-peer networking and apparently will rely on BPOS instead of on-premises Exchange.

Another interesting SMB-focused approach came from a third-party vendor at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. RoseASP launched myGPcloud.com, with a catchy little logo, very close to the Microsoft cloud imagery, that was everywhere in Washington, D.C. The product brings hosted Dynamics GP for small companies and relies on a reseller model. How far behind is Microsoft on offering Dynamics GP itself online?

What business software, or parts of business software, do you think Microsoft will take to the cloud next? Let me know at sbekker@rcpmag.com. T-shirts for thoughtful, insightful, well-informed or official PowerPoint-backed opinions.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.