Gee, guess what? There's a LOT of talking about cloud computing going on today, probably moreso today than just about any other business day in recent history. Why? Because Steve Ballmer kicked off the Microsoft Wordwide Partner Conference with his keynote speech today, and it was pretty much all cloud, all the time. We've all heard that Microsoft is "all in" when it comes to the cloud, but just in case you missed it, that was Ballmer's message today.
The full transcript of Ballmer's keynote is now available from Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/steve/2010/07-12wpc.mspx), and there are several YouTube video versions of the speech online as well. I'm a firm believer that everyone should read the entire transcript and/or watch the entire speech to form your own opinions about where you stand compared to Ballmer's vision of the future. And if you haven't yet, I'd humbly request that you do so before continuing with reading this post.
There are sections of Ballmer's speech that I suspect are going to bother some MS partners, and I won't necessarily disagree with you. I get the whole cloud message, really, I do. It's a marketing thing. If Microsoft were to come out and say "eh, this cloud thing might be interesting, we'll dabble in it and see what happens," partners might not be as eager to jump in given the company's recent history (Small Business Accounting, Response Point, EBS, etc.) So yes, there has to be a message about pushing cloud almost to the exclusion of everything else. Even with the announcement of Aurora and SBS, you're going to hear a LOT more about Aurora because it's "cloud ready" whereas SBS is not. It's a marketing move, and one that I understand the why behind the push.
But one statement does concern me a bit: "If you don't want to move to the cloud, we're not your folks." Here's the statement in full context (starting at 7:10 in this YouTube post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3o91XoJmtgE):
I'll have a number of breakout sessions with partners, where I'm sure I'll hear various things about how we are competing with you when you don't want us to, and how we can improve channel conflicts. I'm sure I'll hear about margins and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But, we will factor those inputs in. We will continue to tweak and tune. We will continue to support you and drive this move to the cloud together. If you don't want to move to the cloud, we're not your folks. But, if you want to move to the cloud and take advantage of one of the most fantastic ways of interested investment that corporate IT has ever made, there's nobody better to bet on than Microsoft.
I've seen some posts already reacting to the "blah, blah, blah, blah, blah" bit, but that doesn't bother me as much as "If you don't want to move to the cloud, we're not your folks." Really? You're so sold on the cloud you're going to abandon every single customer who, for whatever business reason, doesn't want to "get cloudy"? Or are you so certain that the cloud is the only future that you're dissing those of us who don't buy into the "cloud is the solution for every problem" mentality? What exactly is the message here? As a Microsoft partner who has customers who have presented valid business cases why they currently choose not to embrace cloud solutions, how am I supposed to react to that statement?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not an anti-cloud zealot. Just like I'm not an anti-Microsoft zealot even though I happen to own and use a LOT of Apple technology in my business. Our business has been selling and supporting hosted Exchange for quite some time, and signed up yet another customer last week. We're likely to take one of our largest customers and move them off of SBS to hosted Exchange before year end because it makes sense for their business. Even my other business, Third Tier, is entirely cloud-based. So I'm not cloud-phobic. I'm just not also a pro-cloud zealot. When a cloud solution makes good business sense for our customers, we recommend it. When it doesn't, or when our customers articulate business reasons why they choose not to go cloud, we don't.
So what does Ballmer's statement that "If you don't want to move to the cloud, we're not your folks" mean to you? Seriously - I want to know...