Microsoft shifts to utility computing model

There was nothing particularly revolutionary when Microsoft Corp.’s Chief Software Architect, Ray Ozzie, revealed that the Internet will transform Microsoft products and services. But this familiar bark may have a lot more bite in 2008.

During his keynote speech Wednesday at Microsoft’s MIX 08 Web strategy and development conference in Las Vegas, Ozzie outlined three core guiding principles that he says will drive the “re-conceptualization” of Microsoft’s software business.

“We need to think of the Web as the hub of social and technology experience,” he told attendees. “The interpersonal nature of the Web will impact everything we do, including the personal aspects of the PC.”

Ozzie explained that today’s business and personal computing world is characterized by a multitude of different types of devices in use – phones, PCs, handhelds – that are both business and personal productivity tools. Their computing function demands applications and software that can work equally effectively on the diverse and disparate computing interfaces.

Ozzie said that software needs to focus on what he described as“service/service” symmetry, an approach that utilizes the Internet “cloud” and enterprise data centres as platforms of application function delivery. He described it as the “utility” computing model that moves computing function to a massively expanded distributed computing domain. It requires a different way to build applications.

Developers, working to build applications leveraged through this expanded computing platform need to embrace the world of small pieces loosely joined, Ozzie said.

“Transparency, standards and interoperability are keys. Applications need to take advantage of the unique strengths of each platform,” he said. “Over the next five years, the way we write code will be fundamentally transformed by a progressive shift to a utility computing model.”

And how will Microsoft products be impacted by these principles?

Ozzie discussed the need for enabling connected devices, saying that most are Internet connected and/or Internet aware at birth. There’s a need for unified device management that provides the ability to report into a common monitoring service for status and control, and a management function that transparently synchronizes files and media across all devices, Ozzie said. To that end, Ozzie revealed that Microsoft is currently in development of a unified application management product that’s Web-based.

“A team at Microsoft is working on this…bringing together all PCs into a seamless mesh and using the Web as a hub,” he said. Ozzie discussed connected entertainment saying Microsoft’s aspiration is to simplify things like media product registration through an online media centre that allows users to register once for many products and allows the ability to customize “interests and affinities,” for products. He cited the Xbox as being among the first line of products that will leverage this type of function.

Ozzie also discussed a Microsoft vision of connected productivity, which is the idea of building what he described as an enriched productivity function and incorporating this function into various iterations of Office for the PC, wireless handhelds and the online version – Office Live. Ozzie declared that connectivity to Office applications and function through a sort of “Web as a hub” approach will be a central part of the company’s connected productivity strategy going forward.

Finally, Ozzie identified utility computing as a model for leveraging of computing power and application function through distributed datacentres and the Internet “cloud.” It represents what Microsoft believes will be the inevitable future of business computing, he said. To that end, Ozzie said Microsoft will focus its future business productivity application development to leverage this model of function.

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