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Microsoft cloud computing Tools

Microsoft, like all the other major software vendors has Cloud Computing as a major focus area. Microsoft has strong products in the Platform as a Service space.

Software-as-a-Service

In the Software-as-a-Service space hotmail was arguably the first successful vendor. Launched in July 1996, hotmail was the first vendor to offer online email. The mails and hotmail server are hosted on the internet, so hotmail became the first successful Software-as-a-Service provider. Hotmail was acquired by Microsoft in December 1997 for $400 million. Hotmail is now called Windows Live Hotmail.

The main offering of Microsoft in the SaaS space is BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite). BPOS includes four different products:

  1. Microsoft Exchange Online
  2. Microsoft Office Communications Online
  3. Microsoft SharePoint Online
  4. Microsoft Live Meeting

Microsoft Exchange Online is online version of Outlook. The look-and-feel is very similar to Outlook. The mails are hosted at Microsoft's server on the cloud. Microsoft also guarantees an uptime of 99.9%. Also included in the package is daily backups and pre-scanning of messages.

Sharepoint Online is Microsofts document management product. Documents are stored on the Microsofts cloud. These are then selective made available to other users in organization. Other users can colloborate by checking out and updating the document. Microsoft Live Meeting facilitates online meetings. It allows online sharing of desktops and presentations across multiple locations. Microsoft Office Communications Online offers instant messaging platform. Coming from the same vendor, the four tools that form BPOS (Exchange online, Sharepoing online, Live Meeting and Communications Online) integrate well together.

These tools are much cheaprer than installing the corresponding desktop versions. Microsoft Exchange Online is priced at $5 per user per month, while the whole BPOS suite is priced at $10 per user per month. IBM charges $36 per user per year for its LotusLive iNotes product and Google charges $50 per user per year for corporate version of gmail.

BPOS is offered in two forms: Standard and Dedicated. As the name indicates in Dedicated version customers received a dedicated server from Microsoft on which BPOS is hosted. In Standard version the server is shared between multiple customers. Essentially, Dedicated BPOS is an example of Private cloud hosting, and Standard version is an example of public cloud.

Platform-as-a-Service

In the Platform-as-a-Service Microsoft offerings is called Microsoft Azure. Azure provides an operating system and development platform to access/develop applications on Microsoft data centers. Microsoft Azure can be divided into three components:
  1. Windows Azure provides a Windows based environemnt to access/develop applications on Microsofts data centers.
  2. SQL Azure provides access to a relational database hosted at Microsofts data centers. This service is part of IaaS and not PaaS.
  3. .Net Services (also called Fabric) provide access to applications running on the cloud.
The Azure Platform can currently run .NET Framework applications compiled for the Common Language Runtime (CLR).

Microsoft Azure will go live in production from January 1st, 2010. Azure will be available free for the month of January 2010. Pricing for Azure's OS is $0.12 cents an hour for computing and $0.15 cents per Gigabyte per month for storage.

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