The last few days of activity involving Google and Microsoft have really catalyzed some thinking and demonstrated some very intriguing indicators as to how the delivery of applications and services is dramatically evolving.
I don't mean the warm and fuzzy marketing fluff. I mean some real anchor technology investments by the big-boys putting their respective stakes in the ground as they invest hugely in redefining their business models to setup for the future.
Enterprises large and small are really starting to pay attention to the difference between infrastructure and architecture and this has a dramatic effect on the service providers and supply chain who interact with them.
It's become quite obvious that there is huge business value associated with divorcing the need for "IT" to focus on physically instantiating and locating "applications" on "boxes" and instead delivering "services" with the Internet/network as the virtualized delivery mechanism.
Google v. Microsoft - Let's Get Ready to Rumble!
My last few posts on Google's move to securely deliver a variety of applications and services represents the uplift of the "traditional" perspective of backoffice SaaS offerings such as Salesforce.com but also highlights the migration of desktop applications and utility services to the "cloud" also.
This is really executing on the vision of the thin-client Internet-centric vision from back in the day o' the bubble when we saw a ton of Internet-borne services such as storage, backup, etc. using the "InternetOS" as the canvas for service.
So we've talked about Google. I maintain that their strategy is to ultimately take on Microsoft -- including backoffice, utility and desktop applications. So let's look @ what the kids from Redmond are up to.
What Microsoft is developing towards with their vision of CloudOS was just recently expounded upon by one Mr. Ballmer.
Not wanting to lose mindshare or share of wallet, Microsoft is maneuvering to give the customer control over how they want to use applications and more importantly how they might be delivered. Microsoft Live bridges the gap between the traditional desktop and puts that capability into the "cloud."
Let's explore that a little:
In addition to making available its existing services, such as mail and instant messaging, Microsoft also will create core infrastructure services, such as storage and alerts, that developers can build on top of. It's a set of capabilities that have been referred to as a "Cloud OS," though it's not a term Microsoft likes to use publicly.
Late last month, Microsoft introduced two new Windows Live Services, one for sharing photos and the other for all types of files. While those services are being offered directly by Microsoft today, they represent the kinds of things that Microsoft is now promising will be also made available to developers.
Among the other application and infrastructure components, Microsoft plans to open are its systems for alerts, contact management, communications (mail and messenger) and authentication.
As it works to build out the underlying core services, Microsoft is also offering up applications to partners, such as Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger and the Spaces blogging tool.
Combine the emerging advent of "thinner" end-points (read: mobility products) with high-speed, lower latency connectivity and we can see why this model is attractive and viable. I think this battle is heating up and the consumer will benefit.
A Practical Example of SaaS/InternetOS Today?
So if we take a step back from Google and Microsoft for a minute, let's take a snapshot of how one might compose, provision, and deploy applications and data as a service using a similar model over the Internet with tools other than Live or GoogleGear.
Let me give you a real-world example -- deliverable today -- of this capability with a functional articulation of this strategy; on-demand services and applications provided via virtualized datacenter delivery architectures using the Internet as the transport. I'm going to use a mashup of two technologies: Yahoo Pipes and 3tera's AppLogic.
Yahoo Pipes is "...an interactive data aggregator and manipulator that lets you mashup your favorite online data sources." Assuming you have data from various sources you want to present an application environment such as Pipes will allow you to dynamically access, transform and present this information any way you see fit.
This means that you can create what amounts to application and services on demand.
Let's agree however that while you have the data integration/presentation layer, in many cases you would traditionally require a complex collection of infrastructure from which this source data is housed, accessed, maintained and secured.
However, rather than worry about where and how the infrastructure is physically located, let's use the notion of utility/grid computing to make available dynamically an on-demand architecture that is modular, reusable and flexible to make my service delivery a reality -- using the Internet as a transport.
Enter 3Tera's AppLogic:
3Tera's AppLogic is used by hosting providers to offer true utility computing. You get all the control of having your own virtual datacenter, but without the need to operate a single server.
Deploy and operate applications in your own virtual private datacenter
Set up infrastructure, deploy apps and manage operations with just a browser
Scale from a fraction of a server to hundreds of servers in days
Deploy and run any Linux software without modifications
Get your life back: no more late night rushes to replace failed equipment
In fact, BT is using them as part of the 21CN project which I've written about many times before.
So check out this vision, assuming the InternetOS as a transport. It's the drag-and-drop, point-and-click Metaverse of virtualized application and data combined with on-demand infrastructure.
You first define the logical service composition and provisioning through 3Tera with a visual drag-drop canvas, defining firewalls, load-balancers, switches, web servers, app. servers, databases, etc. Then you click the "Go" button. AppLogic provisions the entire thing for you without you even necessarily knowing where these assets are.
Then, use something like Pipes to articulate how data sources can be accessed, consumed and transformed to deliver the requisite results. All over the Internet, transparent to you securely.
Very cool stuff.
Here are some screen-caps of Pipes and 3Tera.