Today, Microsoft held a live event from the University of Washington where Steve Ballmer outlined Microsoft's view on the power of clouds to drive innovation. (You can find replay, transcripts here.) This was a pivotal speech not only for the company, but for the industry as a whole.  For additional context you may find Dan Reed's blog post very revealing about how Microsoft view research insight into the current & future state of the cloud. 

Why is this pivotal?  Tone and Breadth. When you sit back and understand all of the investments we continue to make, you realize there is no other company investing in the cloud to drive the industry forward.  Many pundits have remained skeptical about Microsoft's commitment to evolve our offerings to meet the demands of the next wave of computing. Is Microsoft a leader, a follower, a fast follower, etc., where much of this debate has been isolated to one very specific market or segment.  It's unfortunate because if you zero on one tile, you aren't seeing the mosaic. Steve's tone was strong and unwavering, we are leading with the future.  He also discussed the sheer breadth of our cloud offerings from MSN, Xbox all the way to Azure etc. 

Microsoft at the core is a software company. It's simply what we do and we do it really well. Cloud, Distributing Computing, Grid, Utility, SaaS, et al (insert market term du jour) are all evolving terms that seek to define this next step in computing.  Whether you are a bleeding edge cloud purist or a first generation Fortran geek with punch cards, you agree on one thing: It's all software!  We get that and it's why we are 'all in' when it comes to driving the software industry forward to meet the demands of a new model.  We really see this next wave as another opportunity to use great software to propel new scenarios.

Over 12 years ago, I was part of a small start up (Pandesic) that was SaaS before it was called SaaS. (It was called Application Service Providers then).  And Microsoft's technology was at the core of what used to drive for the cloud. At the time we needed a way to make our three tier architecture behave in real time transactions for commerce at scale.  We used DCOM and IIS at the heart.  Once we had a customer make an appearence on the Oprah show to sell his book, we called Microsoft for help to understand how to scale.  When we luanched a commerce site for adidas and the Womens World Cup, we called Microsoft.  From then to now, Microsoft has been at the heart of the software for many companies. So for me, I've lived with Microsoft at the heart of the early cloud and now I am a part of that continued push here at HQ.

Which brings me to my first point, experience matters. Only Microsoft provides a comprehensive set of cloud services with the reliability, security and global reach you expect for your business.  We do this without compromise.  Going to the cloud should not come with caveats. The same great tools, manageability, control you have today should be offered in the cloud if you want it.  Our recent announcements to provide a Government cloud with the highest level of security measures, industry certifications etc means we get it.  The fact that you can be a small business who wants an easy way to provide mail and collaboration with Microsoft Online, means we get it.  For the developers, Azure really demonstrates how our experience is helping to drive the future of cloud platforms.

Second, Microsoft is full completely committed the cloud.  If you are customer who wants to be there now, you can use any one of our products to support your strategy.  If you aren't there yet, but want to be in the future, this is what we mean when we say 'cloud on your terms'. By having Microsoft technology, you can be assured your onramp is there when you want it. It's about confidence in the roadmap and responsible innovation.  I meet with lots of customers who want to know where we are going.  Simply talking about our investment in data centers and Gen4 concepts means we build for a cloud at scale.   From the ground up, most of our products now are also built for the cloud. They can work in a orchestrated ways across multipe run time environments, whether its a PC, Phone, Browser from our data center to yours.

Finally,  Microsoft is a leader in cloud services.  MSN and Windows Live alone get over 600Billion (with a 'b') visits a month. We process nearly 10B Live Messenger messages a day.  Now with Microsoft Online, we've scaled to over a 1 million paying customers in 36 countries.  Numbers alone aren't meant to impress so much as impress upon you just how much we remain a leader in the cloud today. From the media center to the data center, we are a leader.

So if you are an IT Pro who is trying to understand "Why Microsoft" for the cloud, I'll hope you'll take some time to understand what we offer, possibly start a trial (Azure / MS Online) and see how we can help you meet your strategic needs.