Choose your route to cloud computing

Microsoft and Google have both unveiled their plans for cloud computing.

Azure is Microsoft’s attempt to bridge the gap between desktop and cloud-based computing. The idea behind it is that applications developed using a common Windows programming model can be run either in-house or as a cloud service.

Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie describes this as “giving customers choice”. Clearly, this is a well thought out strategy. Microsoft is late into the market, but Azure promises to offer software developers and enterprises a way to migrate some of their existing Windows applications into the cloud, while keeping others on site.

Google has taken the opposite approach with Chrome OS. Its starting point is that all applications are Javascript-based web applications, accessible via a web browser. It says Chrome OS will run these applications more efficiently than a browser because it has been designed to make the most of hardware such as graphics accelerators, multicore architectures and multimedia peripherals. In theory, this means web applications can provide as rich a user experience as Windows 7 or MacOS X without the need for a runtime environment such as Adobe Flash Player or Microsoft Silverlight.

Unlike Microsoft, which has blurred the distinction between the desktop, server and the cloud, all Chrome OS data and applications reside in the cloud. Local storage is only provided to support offline working. Once an internet connection is established, Chrome OS automatically synchronises data using cloud storage.

Both approaches are valid. Azure is compelling for users happy with Windows, but who want the option to use cloud-based services. Chrome OS is an operating system for cloud computing. If IT directors accept that cloud computing is the future of IT, then Google seems like a good bet.

Whatever approach you take, the landscape of corporate IT has changed. Businesses cannot afford to ignore the impact of cloud computing on how applications and services are delivered.

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