Moving e-mail and collaboration applications to the cloud will drive the first wave of adoption of cloud computing in the enterprise, which is still in its nascent phase, company Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie said Wednesday.
Speaking at a JP Morgan event in Boston, Ozzie said that enterprises still don't trust that they will be provided with the high service levels they would need to move applications onto large networks run by a small number of vendors.
"Enterprises will not really trust the cloud until they get some experience with it," he said. While vendors can claim they will be able to provide service level agreements (SLAs) for the cloud that users want, customers won't "really invest deeply" unless they have a trust relationship with vendors and can see for themselves, Ozzie said.
"The industry needs to mature a bit," he said. "Large enterprise customers don't really believe vendor SLAs."
The best way for them to have more confidence in cloud computing is to take some applications that are more cloud-friendly -- such as e-mail and employee collaboration -- to the cloud, Ozzie said. This is why he sees Microsoft's Exchange and SharePoint software as the obvious first choices for cloud deployment.
"In the next year or two I believe the biggest impact of cloud computing will be in things like Exchange and SharePoint for us or those comparable offerings for competitors, and then it will work its way into other parts of the IT environment over time," he said.
Ozzie said Microsoft has a distinct advantage over other vendors in the market -- including Amazon.com and Google. The company has a breadth of experience dealing with a range of customers and partners as well as offering software and services and will continue to provide both for some time.
"Microsoft's approach to cloud computing really is in the five areas where we have significant advantage in this transition relative to other competitors: experience first and foremost, technology, partners ... developers and the actual customers/install-base momentum," Ozzie said.
Microsoft may have all of those things, but it is behind competitors in bringing a cloud-computing offering to the market. Amazon Web Services has been offering capacity in full production mode on its Elastic Compute Cloud for some time, while Microsoft's Windows Azure, unveiled last November, is still only in a technology preview. Google, too, first opened up its App Engine, a hosting platform for developer applications, last April.