Microsoft's cloud computing strategy has so far delivered infrastructure and developer tools, but the company is now looking to add cloud support into its management platform to enable businesses to control workloads both on-premise and in the cloud from a single console.
Microsoft's System Center portfolio has focused on catching up with virtualisation leader VMware on delivering tools that can manage both virtual and physical machines on-premise, according to Ryan O'Hara, senior director of System Center product management at Microsoft.
"Heretofore we've been investing in physical-to-virtual conversion integrated into a single admin experience, and moving from infrastructure to applications and service-level management," he said.
Microsoft is now looking at a third dimension, that of enabling customers to extend workloads from their own on-premise infrastructure out to a public cloud, while keeping the same level of management oversight.
"We think that on-premise architecture will be private cloud-based architecture, and this is one we're investing deeply in with Virtual Machine Manager and Operations Manager to enable these private clouds," said O'Hara.
Meanwhile, the public cloud element might turn out to be a hosted cloud, an infrastructure-as-a-service, a platform-as-a-service or a Microsoft cloud like Azure.
The challenge is to extend the System Center experience to cover both of these with consistency, according to O'Hara. He believes this is where Microsoft has the chance to create some real differentiation in cloud services, at least from an enterprise viewpoint.
"I think, as we extend cross these three boundaries, it puts System Center and Microsoft into not just an industry leading position, but a position of singularity. I don't think there is another vendor who will be able to accomplish that kind of experience across all three dimensions," he said.
This is territory that VMware is also exploring with vSphere and vCloud, and the company signalled last year that it planned to give customers the ability to move application workloads seamlessly between internal and external clouds.
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