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Windows Cloud OS

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Overview

Windows Cloud OS is a web based application platform intended for developers writing cloud-computing applications. Cloud OS allows computer programmers to build upon Microsoft’s popular Internet services like the online Xbox Live game center and Microsoft Office Live and create sophisticated applications for the cloud.

In the late 2007, the phrase “Cloud Computing” has become a buzzword in the technology community. In 2008, Gartner Research, the leading information technology research company, dubbed cloud computing, “the biggest buzz phrase of 2008, [but] little understood until 2009”[1]. Many IT conglomerates like Google and the Seattle based Amazon rushed to cash in on the popularity of cloud computing by introducing cloud services such as Amazon Web Services and Google App Engine. Windows Cloud OS was Microsoft’s strategy to enter the race, against Google and Amazon, for who dominates the world of cloud computing.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the web. In one of its 2008 editions, Newsweek magazine defined cloud computing as “the ability to use software and data on the Internet (a.k.a the cloud), instead of on your hard drive”[2]. Cloud computing allows people to rent expensive computer resources such as super computers, softwares and platforms for a limited amount of time to perform tasks that require heavy computer processing. These services are delivered over the Internet and can be accessed using simple and inexpensive computers commonly known as terminals. In theory, any device such as a netbook and a smartphone can act like a terminal as long as it has a web browser and is connected to the Internet.

A good analogy that describes cloud computing is a limousine rental service. People often rent a limousine for special occasions like weddings and high school proms. It is neither affordable nor practical to purchase a limousine for a one-day use only. Similarly, for those who cannot afford to buy fully loaded expensive computers such as gaming machines, renting them for a couple of hours at an affordable price would be the alternative solution.

The primary concepts behind cloud computing have been implemented and used by the public for a long time. Examples of cloud services that have already been in play are all web mail services including Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and Gmail. In reality, one would need at least an email server, a web server, an email client and a computer to send or receive emails. These resources could cost up to $10,000. However, companies such as Yahoo and Google have put the resources together and hosted them on the cloud so everyone, from anywhere in the world, can access them over the Internet.

History of Cloud OS

In July 2007, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer briefly announced Microsoft's initial plans for Windows Cloud OS during a speech at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver[3]. Less than a year later, in May 2008, Microsoft launched its first Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Windows Cloud OS.The second CTP version was released in November 2009 and the final commercial version became available to the public in February 2010. Windows Cloud OS was later renamed Windows Azure Platform.

Services

Since its initial commercial release, Windows Cloud OS has been used for database management, computer processing, storage and networking related services primarily by large companies. Using Windows Cloud OS, companies can now lease a computing power equivalent to 8-core CPU with 14 GB Ram Memory and 2 TB of disk space for under a dollar per hour[4]. The base price for a comparable computer with similar specifications from Apple Inc. is around $4,500.[5]

Competition

Microsoft's main competitors in the cloud computing industry are Amazon and Google. Windows Cloud OS, primarily because of its tight integration to other Microsoft business applications such as Microsoft Office and Microsoft Visio, has gained solid support largely from small and big corporations. Most of its recent enhancements are geared toward businesses. According to some case studies on Microsoft’s official website, several companies were able to reduce their overhead costs by implementing a cloud based networking and database infrastructure. In the past, companies were required to purchase computers and software licenses for each of their employees. Using Windows Cloud OS, however, a company needs as little as only one powerful server in the cloud with just a single software license on it. Employees can then connect to the cloud using their terminals and perform their tasks concurrently.

A major drawback that many dislike about Microsoft’s Windows Cloud OS and Amazon Web Services is that in both cases, you pay for each cloud instance regardless of whether you used it or not[6]. This is similar to paying for monthly subscription plans where one pays a fixed monthly payment regardless of how many minutes the person consumes. On the other hand, with Google’s App Engine, customers pay per server instance and only when they get traffic to their application. This is equivalent to the pay-as-you-go services that some cell phone companies offer.

References

  1. http://www.newsweek.com/2008/06/09/living-in-the-clouds.html
  2. http://news.cnet.com/Microsofts-Cloud-OS-takes-shape/2100-1007_3-6196152.html
  3. http://news.cnet.com/Microsofts-Cloud-OS-takes-shape/2100-1007_3-6196152.html
  4. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/compute/default.aspx#computeinstancesize
  5. http://store.apple.com/us_smb_78313/configure/MC561LL/A?mco=MTg2OTUwMTk
  6. http://stackoverflow.com/questions/791447/windows-azure-vs-amazon-ec2-vs-google-app-engine

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