A colleague of mine, Mark Miller, was at a recent cloud computing dinner event in Silicon Valley.  He wrote up a brief summary of the event, which I thought would interest you and wanted to share.  Give it a read below and let me know if you have any comments or questions.  Thanks - Larry

New Research from Harvard Business Review Sparks Discussion at Cloud Computing Customer Event

Whether you’re an IT or business decision maker, it probably seems like all you hear these days is “cloud computing.” In fact, if you’re in any type of business, anywhere in the world, you are hearing a lot about cloud computing: the benefits it provides, the latest technologies available, and the various approaches to cloud adoption. For example at this year’s TechEd North America, the theme was Cloud Computing: Delivered and cloud computing was also the focus of a more intimate dinner last week in Silicon Valley.

This dinner brought together over 40 business and IT leaders from a variety of industries to hear Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT and leading voice on innovation, and Harvard Business Review’s research editor, Angela Herrin, discuss a Microsoft-sponsored whitepaper from Harvard Business Review, entitled, “How the Cloud Looks from the Top: Achieving Competitive Advantage In the Age of Cloud Computing.”

I encourage you to look at the whitepaper as it puts a distinctly business-oriented point of view on the transformative technology of cloud computing. The findings reaffirmed some of our perceptions about where the market is today – and I wanted to share a few key takeaways:

- Early adopters of cloud computing believe it has already provided significant new business value and over half of the respondents think cloud will be a source of competitive advantage.

- The majority of businesses believe cloud will be a significant part of their business over the next three years.

- Despite the promise of competitive advantage and the acceptance that cloud computing will be a reality, barriers to adoption still remain. These barriers include concerns around data security, compliance, and business continuity.

During the course of dinner, we discussed the survey results and also had the opportunity to go a level deeper - learning more about the cloud from the thought leaders at the event and each other. Here are a couple of highlights from the evening’s discussion:

- Many customers discussed the importance of interoperability for cloud computing, a point which was strongly reinforced by the event’s featured speaker, Michael Schrage. In particular, a customer from the healthcare industry expressed frustration about interoperability with current cloud offerings for that market, calling for better solutions.

- Michael also described how the cloud creates unique opportunities for businesses today by effectively bringing the cost of ‘process innovation’ down to zero. He believes people should think about business process as they move to the cloud and this focus on process is what will drive innovation - a shift to doing things in new ways.

It was a great evening – full of learning, insights and dialogue – and we look forward to continuing that experience at the next two events in June.  I believe that when we listen to our customers we can design and develop better products and strategies.  Forums like these help to inform our cloud vision, and help us offer the right array of solutions and technologies so you can move to the cloud on your terms.

I am excited to hear what business and IT leaders have to say at these future events and I’ll be sure to share these future insights with you on this blog. Until then, you can learn more about Microsoft’s approach to business-focused cloud computing at the Cloud Power site.

Thanks for your time – Mark Miller, Director, Server and Tools, Microsoft