Friday, October 31, 2008

In the darkness bind them ...

I picked this up Tom Lord's comment on Nick's recent blog post about "A typology of network strategies"

"Yes, we want a utility infrastruture but no, we don't want the power company to be the sole provider of compatible toasters" & "we will have to bust up and separate the two realms of business"

The platform plays in the cloud world will separate the resource providers (ISPs) from the application providers (ISVs and community) and provide a common technology framework between the two.

The two businesses will be kept separate but they will also be bound and ruled by the platform. This is why, in my view, the recent spate of blog posts about Amazon EC2 (a cloud ISP) vs Azure Services Platform (a platform play) miss the point.

To explain, I'll note the following from Microsoft's own literature and apparently Ballmer's own statements:

  • "the cost—in terms of capital expenditure and the time and effort of staff to support those solutions—has become increasingly prohibitive"
  • "The Microsoft Azure Services Platform provides the foundation for you to help customers tackle these challenges"
  • "you’ll have the flexibility and interoperability you need to deliver robust, yet cost-effective, solutions to expand your practice and your revenue"
  • "All of the innovations we'll make in cloud services, we will also repackage over time back into our server offerings"
  • "partners won't come up empty-handed in Microsoft's hosting plan"
  • "Microsoft will also continue investing in partner programs"

Using a bit of twisted logic, you could imply that the long term future of Azure might well be as a technology platform provided by a marketplace of different ISPs on top of which is built a marketplace of applications created by different ISVs. If this is the case, you could think of Microsoft's own data centres as a beach-head for this strategy.

Amazon was recently praised by Ozzie for releasing its cloud services before Microsoft. He is reported to have said that "all of us are going to be standing on their shoulders". I wonder if he was speaking literally and that Azure Service Platform will be available on Amazon's servers at sometime?

If that turns out to be the case, then Amazon will truly find itself playing the role of one of the nine.