Microsoft, Google Debate Cloud Future

At the inaugural meeting of the New York Technology Council Thursday night, Google Vice President of Research Alfred Spector and Microsoft architect evangelist Bill Zack debated their views on how data will be stored and shared in the future.

The two were part of a panel discussion moderated by BusinessWeek technology reporter Arik Hesseldahl. Held at the New York headquarters of PricewaterhouseCoopers in front of an audience of 200 influential venture capitalists, IT executives and vendors, the debate underscored the rivals' competing but overlapping strategies for how datacenter architectures and personal information access will evolve using cloud services.

Zack explained Microsoft's mantra of "three screens and the cloud," which is focused on making data universally accessible on PCs, mobile devices and consumer systems, including televisions and gaming consoles. "We see in terms of content and in terms of protocols the convergence of those," Zack said.

"There is some information you can put in the cloud and there is some information that you'd be crazy to put in the cloud," Zack added. "We believe in the online stack and we believe in our cloud stack. And we believe in hybrid applications so you don't have to put information out in the cloud or all information on-premise. You can build an application that leverages the best of both."

Spector, meanwhile, championed Google's vision of having all data residing in the cloud. "I think it's clear to all of us now that information sharing is an essential part of running our society, we cannot have a walled enterprise," Spector said.

"Google and Microsoft each clearly espouse views that correlate to their own agendas," wrote attendee Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at twentysix New York, in a blog post. "Google wants everything to be published and interconnected, so that it can all be indexed, searched and AdWord-ized," Brust noted. "Microsoft, on the other hand, wishes both to promote its new cloud platform (Azure) and protect its legacy PC and server software franchise. Software + Services."

Responding to a question about security, both Spector and Zack were in agreement that data can be kept as safe in the cloud as it is on-premises, and they believe most of those security-related fears will subside over time.

"The flow of information across enterprises is a given," Spector said. "We all have to recognize that there are inherent security challenges that can go along with this flow of information. I think it's relatively incidental whether the data is stored, encrypted in some cloud or encrypted on some server. Those are not the big security risks. I think all the risks emanate from an architecture of a highly connected world."

Zack said that security in the cloud is no more an issue than it is with other services that enterprises use. "If somebody told me 15 or 20 years ago that we'd be putting our payroll information in the cloud, I would have said they are crazy. Yet we all outsource our payroll to companies like ADP. It's a matter of knowing what you can outsource to the cloud and also getting legislation passed so the laws catch up with the real world."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.