I shared the following story about Galileo to nearly 400 industry executives from 38 countries who gathered in Seattle for the 2013 Microsoft Hosting Summit last week.

I completed my master’s degree at the University of Padua, which is one of the earliest universities in the world and where Galileo held the chair of mathematics in the late 1500s. Galileo is remembered for many important scientific achievements, including the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around the sun at the center of the solar system. This happened during a time when the established model was that the Earth was at the center of the solar system.

The theme for the Hosting Summit was Changing the Game, so I thought this story was relevant because Galileo truly was a game changer in his time. His vision to position the sun at the center of the solar system has influenced physics and mathematics, and played a major role in the Scientific Revolution.

Just as Galileo’s approach to put the sun at the center of the solar system changed the game for future scientific discoveries, placing the cloud at the center of business IT is changing the opportunities for Microsoft hosting partners to provide cloud services and solutions.

Today we released results of a survey that Microsoft recently commissioned with 451 Research titled The New Era of Hosted Services. The study highlights big opportunities for hosting partners in the next two years in the areas of customers, cloud, and applications. Key findings include:

  • Cloud: The new cloud opportunity for hosting service providers is to help customers leverage the cloud to grow their business. This is a change from previous years, when cloud was largely seen as a cost-cutting measure. According to the survey, more than 52 percent of organizations identify the cloud as beneficial for either growing their business or realigning their organization to a new company strategy.
  • Customers: The next two years will represent the era of hybrid cloud – defined as the interoperability of private and public cloud – as customers look to this consumption model to facilitate growth. Our research indicates that 68 percent of customers plan to adopt hybrid cloud models in the next two years; up from 49 percent today.
  • Applications: Software is sticky, and brand is important. The survey revealed that two-thirds of software as a service customers use software online that they had previously installed on-premises. This highlights a significant opportunity for hosting service provider partners to offer customers Microsoft software they trust in a cloud environment.

As an advocate for this industry, I’m excited about these findings and the opportunities they reveal for our hosting partners. We’re continuously working to help our partners assist their customers with this transition to the cloud – in fact, we’ve added more than 4,500 partners in the past 12 months, making the Microsoft hosting community the largest of any vendor – and our strong alliance with this community will help us ensure a seamless transition.

In the meantime, check out this infographic for more survey findings. And follow Microsoft Hosting on Twitter @MSFTHost or join the Microsoft Cloud Hosting Partners LinkedIn group to keep up with the evolving era of hosted services.

By Marco Limena, Vice President of the Hosting Service Providers, Microsoft Corporation