Cloud Interoperability Brought to Earth by Microsoft

Executives at Microsoft say that an interoperable cloud could help companies trying to lower costs and governments trying to connect constituents. Cloud services are increasingly seen as a way for businesses and governments to scale IT systems for the future, consolidate IT infrastructure, and enable innovative services not possible until now.

Technology vendors are seeking to identify and solve the issues created by operating in mixed IT environments in order to help organizations fully realize the benefits of cloud services. Additionally, vendors are collaborating to make sure that their products work well together. The industry may still be in the beginning stages of collaborating on cloud interoperability, but has already made great strides.

So what exactly is cloud interoperability and how can it benefit companies now? Cloud interoperability specifically concerns one cloud solution working with other platforms and applications—not just other clouds. Customers want to be able to run applications locally or in the cloud, or even on a combination of both. Currently, Microsoft is collaborating with others in the industry and is working to make sure that the premise of cloud interoperability becomes an actuality.

Microsoft’s general managers Craig Shank and Jean Paoli are spearheading Microsoft’s interoperability efforts. Shank helms the company’s interoperability work on public policy and global standards and Paoli collaborates with the company’s product teams to cater product strategies to the needs of customers. According to Shank, one of the main attractions of the cloud is the amount of flexibility and control it gives customers. “There’s a tremendous level of creative energy around cloud services right now—and the industry is exploring new ideas and scenarios all the time. Our goal is to preserve that flexibility through an open approach to cloud interoperability,” says Shank.

Paoli chimes in to say, “This means continuing to create software that’s more open from the ground up, building products that support technologies such as PHP and Java, and ensuring that our existing products work with the cloud.” Both Shank and Paoli are confident that welcoming competition and choice will allow Microsoft to become more successful down the road. “This may seem surprising,” says Paoli before adding,” but it creates more opportunities for its customers, partners and developers.”

Shank reveals that due to the buzz about the cloud, some forget about the ultimate goal: “To be clear, cloud computing has enormous potential to stimulate economic growth and enable governments to reduce costs and expand services to citizens.” One example of the real-world benefits of cloud interoperability is the public sector. Microsoft is currently showing results in this area via solutions like their Eye for Earth project. Microsoft is helping the European Environment Agency simplify the collection and processing of environmental information for use by the general public and government officials. Eye on Earth obtains data from 22,000 water monitoring points and 1,000 stations that monitor air quality through employing Microsoft® Windows Azure, Microsoft ® SQL Azure and already existing Linux technologies. Eye on Earth then helps synthesize the information and makes it accessible for people in 24 different languages in real time.

Product developments like this emerged out of feedback channels which the company developed with its partners, customers and other vendors. In 2006, for example, Microsoft created the Interoperability Executive Customer (IEC) Council, which is comprised of 35 chief technology officers and chief information officers from a variety of organizations across the globe. The group meats two times per year in Redmond and discuss issues concerning interoperability as well as provide feedback to Microsoft executives.

Additionally, Microsoft recently published a progress report which—for the first time—revealed operational details and results achieved by the Council across six work streams (or priority areas). The Council recently commissioned the creation of a seventh work stream for cloud interoperability geared towards developing standards related to the cloud which addressed topics like data portability, privacy, security and service policies.

Developers are an important part of cloud interoperability, and Microsoft is part of an effort the company co-founded with Zend Technologies, IBM and Rackspace called Simple Cloud. Simple Cloud was created to help developers write basic cloud applications that work on all major cloud platforms.

Microsoft is further engaging in the collaborative work of building technical “bridges” between the company and non-Microsoft technologies, like the recently-released Microsoft ® Windows Azure Software Development Kits (SDKs) for PHP and Java and tools for the new Windows ® Azure platform AppFabric SDKs for Java, PHP and Ruby (Eclipse version 1.0), the SQL CRUD Application Wizard for PHP and the Bing 404 Web Page Error Toolkit for PHP. These examples show the dedication of Microsoft Interoperability team.

Despite the infancy of the industry’s collaboration on cloud interoperability issues, much progress has already been made. This progress has had a major positive impact on the way even average users work and live, even if they don’t realize it yet. A wide perspective and a creative and collaborative approach to problem-solving are required for cloud interoperability. In the future, Microsoft will continue to support more conversation within the industry in order to define cloud principles and make sure all points of view are incorporated. For more information please contact a Nubifer representative today.

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    • Richard
    • May 21st, 2010

    Insightful…

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