The following is a guest post from David Greschler, Director Virtualization and Cloud Strategy at Microsoft

2010 saw the rapid rise in popularity of businesses considering cloud computing solutions as a way of helping reduce costs, gain efficiencies, as well as a variety of other benefits.  Unfortunately, at the same time, vendors have also attached the term ‘cloud computing’ to their wares in an effort to ride that wave of popularity without truly having the breadth of technologies to attach that moniker to their offerings.  Looking at the Wikipedia definition of cloud computing, it is clear that a broad set of technologies is needed to make up a proper cloud computing solution:

Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared servers provide resources, software, and data to computers and other devices on demand, as with the electricity grid. Cloud computing is a natural evolution of the widespread adoption of virtualization, service-oriented architecture and utility computing. Details are abstracted from consumers, who no longer have need for expertise in, or control over, the technology infrastructure "in the cloud" that supports them.

In support of our Cloud Power campaign we’ve delivered a lighthearted and playful message, “Virtualization alone does not a cloud solution make”, which is intentionally incisive — designed to cut through the clutter and confusion that surrounds cloud computing. By making some clear assertions about what cloud computing is, we hope to turn the conversation away from hype and toward real-world guidance for businesses.

We chose to focus our message on virtualization— one of the bigger areas of confusion in the industry’s conversation about cloud computing. Virtualization can certainly be used as a stepping stone to the cloud, but it is really just one component of cloud computing. Some of the attributes most commonly associated with cloud computing—elasticity, metered usage and a self-service provisioning model—are clearly not enabled by virtualization alone. 

Clarifying the limitations of virtualization doesn’t in any way diminish its importance or its value—to the contrary, our continued investments in the Windows Server platform (Windows Server, Hyper-V and System Center) show our commitment to providing world-class virtualization technology, both as a solution in its own right and as a bridge to the future. Microsoft virtualization customers like CH2M Hill and Lionbridge are realizing impressive, meaningful benefits today, but just as importantly they are positioned to embrace broader cloud solutions tomorrow—on their own terms, and on top of their existing investments.

No doubt about it, virtualization provides customers a strong step forward, but if we stopped there we’d be cutting the journey artificially short.

As customers look at moving beyond running their own infrastructure and focusing more on their core business goals, Microsoft provides Windows Azure, a platform for developing, deploying and running applications in the cloud, as a complement to the Windows Server platform offerings, helping customers realize the full benefits of running IT as a Service.  Through the combination of these platforms, Microsoft offers a comprehensive set of cloud computing solutions today—spanning the infrastructure (IaaS), platform (PaaS), and software (SaaS) layers, with a common framework of tools between them. Customers will be able to choose between, or blend a combination of private or public cloud models depending on what best suits their needs.  For any infrastructure model they choose, they will have access to System Center’s complete, integrated monitoring and management. 

In the end, organizations that implement our cloud computing solutions can realize the benefits of reduced IT complexity, hardware costs, and software maintenance costs, while having more time to commit to innovating and moving their business forward.

You can learn more about the advantages of Microsoft’s approach vs. VMware by downloading our whitepaper, “How Microsoft is Writing the Future of Cloud Computing.”