Over the course of the next few months, I’m going to “repurpose” this blog a little bit. We’re going to start using our team blog to focus on product announcements, features etc. It’s just easier to keep all of that information centralized and I will continue to link to that blog when major news is announced. With this blog, I’ll focus more on strategy/direction/opinion with our feature investments in SCVMM and also share some of what we’re hearing from our customers.

Recently at our annual Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) we demo’d some early work we’ve been doing to allow SCVMM customers to augment their on-premise/private cloud resources with hosted/public cloud resources. Cloud computing isn’t new but the appeal of what it offers is really starting to resonate with customers. Last year we conducted focus groups for SCVMM feature planning and not a single person brought up cloud computing as being near the top of their radar. This year we had lots of dialog on cloud computing with customers, most of it unprompted. What we found is that more and more, customers are looking to build a “private cloud” within their enterprise datacenters. Lots of customers told me that many of their internal business units are starting to leverage external public cloud providers and the reasoning typically went something like this:

“All they need is a credit card number and they get a server in a few hours or even minutes. If they call me (internal IT) we have this bureaucracy that takes weeks and that’s assuming I can even automate the provisioning process from networking, storage, physical servers, OS etc. If it’s for dev/test, it will take even longer since that’s less critical.”

Ultimately, as an IT shop, they want to provide their business users with the same level of responsiveness and all of the attributes of public cloud computing so that the decision of whether to go on premise or off premise is a business decision, not a technical one.

The definition of “cloud computing” has also been evolving but most definitions include the concepts of scalability, shared resources and abstraction of physical implementation. Virtualization is a key enabler for many of these scenarios but ultimately we feel it comes down to management as the differentiator (I know, I’m biased but that doesn’t make me wrong!).

Many vendors are advising customers to wait for better industry alignment before proceeding (Tom Bittman at Gartner has an alternative interpretation of this tactic) but waiting isn’t really an option for most customers who are already under heavy pressure in this particularly difficult economy. Over the next few blog posts I’ll be going into more detail but System Center and Windows Server will form the foundation of our technology stack so you can get started now knowing that we have your back on ensuring that your investments today line up with our strategy longer term. Customers are telling us that they want to manage both private and public resources using a consistent approach and using a single set of tools so that’s what we’re committed to bringing them.  We showed an early glimpse of this at MMS but we are very ambitious and that’s just the tip of the iceberg – stay tuned!