At PDC MS just announce Azure and a set of online services
I'm lucky enough to attend PDC this year where Microsoft have just announced Windows Azure - the O/S for "the cloud" as well as a set of online services to be released.
Both are very big and very exciting and, naturally, very much related; as Ray Ozzie said one thing you could clearly say about Microsoft is that they have always been one of the biggest clients of their own technologies, so when they are talking about an releasing an O/S for the cloud and a a set of fairly extensive online services (yet to be seen) you can expect a big correlation between the two technologies, each influencing each other over the next few months (and beyond).
Azure, to be used by Microsoft in its own data centres, and to be made available to the paying public via commercial agreements that would be based on a combination of resources required and SLAs agreed (and met!) would allow companies to deploy their solutions (web app was one thing briefly demonstrated) to "the could" or - if you prefer a more concrete definition - Microsoft's data centres - first in the US and then worldwide, through a portal like admin console you can deploy solution developed and tested on your local development environment not much differently that any other project you would have done before; this is crucial if adoption is to be wide - and it seems Microsoft are keen on, and are on the right track, to keep familiarity, and thus productivity high as well as, obivusly, integration with existing tools.
Commissioning of more resource is a case of tweaking settings on the portal (and dishing cash, of course).
It will be very interesting to see how this get's adopted outside Microsoft, the key motivation being of course providing scalability and redundancy to applications deployed at a fraction of the cost otherwise required, as well as high flexibility in both these fields (supporting peak times, for example); but also, quite possible, simply lower cost of hosting and running the applications (for the smaller businesses?)
Even more interesting is the idea of online services - obviously these will all be hosted in the same data centres running on the same O/S so all the questions around those apply, but another later of considerations is added - what will be the capabilities of all these services? how flexible will they be? how will they perform and what would the learning curve like? how trusted can Microsoft be to make companies safeguard possible their most precious data is their data centre? and processes?
Ray Ozzie mentioned we're entering the fifth generation of software, the era of the "web tier"; there was a lot of hype about "the cloud" recently - some of it good, some of it bad - all of it suggests that we're at the brink of a big change;
I've decided to step out of the "announcements" streak and look more closely about what, I would imagine, would be the first question everyone would (or at least should") ask: how will this be secured.
I'm expecting that Kim Cameron's session on the "identity roadmap for software + services" will provide a good window into some of the aspects that need to be considered, and as I've been doing quite a lot of work recently on federated identity (posts to come) I'm particularly interested in this topic at the moment; enough to convince me to skip the "Lap around cloud services" happening next door.