I've received a few more hints about the big cloud-computing initiative Microsoft may be about to announce, perhaps during the company's Mix08 conference in Las Vegas this coming week. One of the cornerstones of the strategy, I've heard, will be an aggressive acceleration of the company's investment in its data center network. The construction program will be "totally over the top," said a person briefed on the plan. The first phase of the buildout, said the source, will include the construction of about two dozen data centers around the world, each covering about 500,000 square feet or more. The timing of the construction is unclear.
If accurate, this report would be in line with comments that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made in an interview with the Financial Times a week ago. Echoing predictions already made by representatives of Sun Microsystems, Yahoo, and IBM, among others, Ballmer argued "that a new super-group of tech companies would dominate the cloud computing market, each of them managing what amounts to a giant centralised computer made up of a number of big datacentres. 'Amazon has one. Rumours are Google will have one. We’ve said we’re going to have one,' Mr Ballmer said."
Despite the airiness of the "cloud" buzzword, web-based computing requires a whole lot of bricks and mortar. Microsoft has the resources and, it appears, the will to invest many billions in the physical infrastructure necessary to secure a place among the "super-group" of companies set to dominate the new era of computing.
I've also heard that people may be "stunned" about the extent to which Microsoft will embrace open-source software and interoperability in its plan. We shall see.