Microsoft will expand its online services to the world, with pricing options and integration with on-premise directory servers. Mary Branscombe reports...
But I had more interesting comments from Dough Zone, the CTO of MetraTech (who provides the billing system), than I could fit into the piece - so here's the bonus content.
Billing for the cloud - and billing in the cloud
Success in the software as a service market could also have wider strategic advantages for Microsoft, in the cloud and on premise. Today the MetraTech billing system runs on standard physical Windows servers, but moving onto Windows Azure would make it far easier to offer billing itself as a cloud service.”When I take on a customer, I don’t have to go out and order hardware or set up a network for you. I can just get myself upon Azure and I’ve got rid of one of the biggest headaches of a project – procurement.”
What about the competition?
“Salesforce.com doesn't really have a billing argument out there yet; they're looking for one pretty hard. Amazon’s flexible payment system is a hosting environment for somebody who wants to put together a billing process; if you’re going to sell software as service through Amazon and you want to set up a billing arrangement you can use the flexible payment system. With Amazon you have this absolutely flexible way of selling; it’s like going to the souk in Casablanca. With Microsoft it’s more like walking into a mall. Microsoft is less of a bazaar and more of a market - and I think bazaars are expensive to play in.”
He also believes the scale of Azure and the Microsoft Online Services position Microsoft as the equivalent of a tier one telco in terms of service provision, proving its scalability. “I think Microsoft is indirectly saying to the world ‘This is our SQL Server and our billing system based on our servers’. We're talking about scales that match or exceed some of the things that Oracle is throwing around. From my point of view, Microsoft is saying very clearly to the CIO that they have an alternative to Oracle. Oracle has so much cornered the market in the enterprise that CIOs are desperate for someone who will provide a good alternative and Microsoft is saying - we provide not just a good alternative, but an excellent alternative.”