SYDNEY, 03 OCTOBER 2008 - Online retailer Amazon.com has moved to steal a march on Microsoft in the emerging cloud computing market with the announcement that it would begin offering the software company's technology over the internet by the end of the year.
The move comes ahead of the anticipated launch later this month of a hosted software service from Microsoft, which is pumping several billion dollars into building systems to support its push into cloud computing.
Cloud computing aims to turn information technology into a utility that businesses and consumers use in much the same way as they purchase and consume electricity.
It allows businesses to pay for only the computing power they use. It also gives organisations access to hardware and software without having to buy equipment that they must maintain themselves.
Microsoft, Amazon.com, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, EMC, Google and Salesforce.com are just some of the industry players working to stake out a position in the market, which a growing number of experts suggest could transform the way the sector does business.
For some time Amazon has offered cloud computing services through its EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) web service.
Amazon's chief technology officer, Werner Vogels, said yesterday the company would start hosting Windows Server and SQL Server software this year.
"Windows Server ranked very high on the list of requests by customers, so we are happy that we will be able to provide this," Mr Vogels said.
Amazon is yet to announce its pricing for the service.
Critics have queried whether the technology is suitable for heavily computer-dependent businesses, as Amazon's cloud computing services have experienced a number of serious outages this year.
Microsoft is keen to push into the market and is building several $US500 million ($629 million) data centres that will support applications that it makes available to businesses and consumers over the internet.
Senior Microsoft software architect Miha Kralj said in an interview last month with The Australian Financial Review that the company was equipping its new computer and mobile phone operating systems, including the next version of Windows, to support cloud computing.
"It is very obvious that within the next couple of years the way you buy IT is going to change," Mr Kralj said.
"All of those decisions that we all face today - will your systems be on-premises or off-premises, will you use real-time infrastructure or virtualisation - are very much becoming irrelevant."
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