Hey, You, Get Off My Cloud!

Includes: AMZN, IBM, MSFT
by: Kevin Maney

Who knew a stinkin' cloud could get get so crowded. But here comes Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) stomping into cloud computing, instantly taking up space like a 300-pound guy in a middle seat.

But this whole thing is getting confusing, especially since cloud computing seems to be a bunch of different markets, not just one. IBM, for instance, announced Blue Cloud a year ago. It's aimed at big corporate customers that want to offload some data center operations to IBM -- and really, IBM has been doing that for years. Blue Cloud just sounds like a way to brand it.

Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) seems to be the clear leader in a new generation of cloud computing that CEO Jeff Bezos calls "computing by the sip." Bezos started putting this in place in 2006, and it's become an important solution for Silicon Valley start-ups. They're able to build Web-based businesses without buying or leasing a roomful of servers. The flexibility is a godsend. The companies buy a little computing when they're starting, and more as business ramps up. Amazon seems to still be trying to convince more stodgy corporations to use its cloud services. 

So if IBM has the big companies and Amazon the small ones -- where does Microsoft fit in? Well, first of all, it's just adding to the confusion by calling its offering Microsoft Azure, which is, you know, a purplish blue. So we've got IBM's Blue Cloud, and Microsoft's Purplish Blue Cloud. Who wants to jump in with the Mauve Cloud?

Microsoft seems intent on offering applications that reside on the Web and communicate and synch with apps running on PCs. Which, if I'm reading this right, is not really competing with either Amazon or IBM -- but is more in line with things like Sun's (NASDAQ:SUNW) Star Office and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) apps such as Google Docs. But even there, it seems that Microsoft is aiming at corporate customers with high-powered apps, while Google is more of a consumer or small business offering...and Star Office sits somewhere in between.

Then of course there's Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison, who thinks the whole "cloud" moniker is a ton of bull. Maybe it is!