Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Moshing on the Mesh

Ray Ozzie is a rock star, but his band's latest album probably seems a little inaccessible at first. At least, that's the way I read the initial response to Microsoft's announcements at Web2.0 this week. Ray and the Mister Softy Band have released to "airplay"--at least a little--the mysterious cloud strategy that many of us have been anxiously awaiting for some time now. While arriving at the show fashionably late, the Mister Softy Band is laying a groove that will address the consumer market in ways that strongly challenge Google, be interesting to business, and demonstrate even more clearly how AWS is more of a hosting platform than anything.

Details of the announcement are everywhere, but here are the highlights for me:
  • The core of the concept is a virtual desktop hosted in Microsoft's data centers, to which you connect any compatible device (PC, mobile, etc., but Windows only for now).
  • Within that desktop, folders can be created which allow you to store whatever you want to share (documents, photos, videos, music, etc.) among your devices.
  • Folders can even be shared with other friends or family members using a social network built into the mesh.
  • The mesh uses a two way RSS/ATOM mechanism (FeedSync) to sync not only files, but also applications between devices
That last item is key, because while this may look at the start as nothing more than a grandiose social network with storage, its actually much more than that. Ray's vision is to provide a platform for developers that can leverage the syncing capability, along with some other framework components, to build applications that truly live within and through the mesh.

This is ambitious as hell, and I have to give "the band" credit for their vision. While tried and true MS "lock-'em-in...lock-'em-all-in" hardcore, it is a completely different sound than what Google, Amazon and even Intuit have released. Its a place to live in the cloud, rather than simply a stopping point. And, while the open source community is rightfully skeptical, there are hundreds of thousands of Microsoft loyal developers out there who will make this thing work for them. That, in turn, creates a market that the rest of the cloud would do well to keep an eye on.

So, now I see the following experiments in the nascent cloud market:
  • Amazon: Pure Capacity-On-Demand with scalable components available ala carte
  • Mosso: Pure Capacity-On-Demand in a hosted model with flat rate for normal usage
  • Google: Platform-as-a-Service targeted at Internet facing web applications and optimizing developer experience for highly scalable web application development and deployment
  • Intuit: Platform-as-a-Service targeted at Internet facing financial applications using their QuickBooks platform
  • Microsoft: Virtual Desktop and Platform-as-a-Service targeted at providing a complete online compute environment from a end user point of view
Update: Bob Warfield at SmoothSpan has a post that is making me rethink some of my enthusiasm for the mesh.

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