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Is Microsoft the answer to the cloud quandary?

The company could rediscover relevance because it understands that the companies using its cloud services require flexibility first and foremost

By Steve Duplessie
July 30, 2013 07:00 AM ET

Computerworld - First, some background: I have often been a very vocal basher of Microsoft. As of a few years ago, I now run Apple stuff because I got sick of Windows quality issues causing me endless pain. I have mocked Microsoft's failed attempts at being a legitimate data protection player and storage player over the years. I watched it bomb following Apple, with Zune, a phone OS and a tablet. As a follower, it's been poor. As a leader, however, it's been unequaled.

A year ago I felt like the company might actually be accelerating its path to irrelevance in a futile attempt to cling to a business model built in the 1980s.

Thus, it may come as a surprise (it did to me) that I'm suddenly enamored with what Microsoft could do with its cloud OS. Like everything that comes out of Redmond, some healthy skepticism is merited -- but as I watch the cloud era take shape, I see one giant with the market muscle and the clarity of vision rising from the mist, and it's Microsoft.

The cloud is primarily a derivative consumption model for services that already exist. It's also a radical business model change for those vendors that were not born into it. It is a sea change on both the buy side and the sell side. Sea changes in markets evolve out of mass confusion and market hysteria. Once things calm down and take shape, however, someone takes control. Usually that someone is a net new player -- leaving the old guard of the market in its wake. Amazon is a player that didn't exist a short time ago. VMware is a player that didn't exist in any meaningful way until five years ago.

When it came to cloud, it looked like Microsoft would be left behind. Now I think it might end up being the king (again) of a whole new kingdom. A bigger kingdom. A kingdom of three. Three data center considerations: mine, a service provider's and Microsoft's.

Let's start with a basic premise: You run Microsoft applications. If you don't, this argument is not for you. It's for the 95% of the world that does.

You run applications locally. You most likely have at least one of your own IT operations in a data center you own or rent. You have some stuff on a service provider's cloud, or you will. You might be looking to move some of your applications to the cloud (Office 365). Your world is a hybrid. Private, public, hybrid clouds are the three kingdoms of the 21st century.

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