Microsoft general manager Amit Mital emphasised the advantages of agility and ubiquity in the company's Software plus Services strategy in his Tech Ed keynote address this morning. He told a crowd of 2,000 plus at the conference, in Auckland, that is was important they not confuse the plan with Software as a Service. Mital, who leads the development of Microsoft's Live Mesh system, says Software plus Service delivers the best of the cloud, of hosted software, of Web 2.0 and of service oriented architecture through tight integration and a flexible development. He says the offering delivers power and flexibility for partners and customers to meet their computing requirements. Under it, the advantages of the cloud (deployability, global reach, agility and ease of provisioning) are married to the best of hosted software (security and privacy, visibility and control, and data accessibility). Mital emphasised the ability of the model to incorporate partners, offering multiple means of delivery, including on-premises, third party and direct, through federation. He emphasised changes happening at the back end in Microsoft's server and application software to enable this, saying it has to be properly structured "between the server and the service". He says Microsoft is "refactoring" its enterprise server and software to deliver "server and service symmetry". "Over the next few years the way we build applications is vitally important," he says. Software has to be mapped on to the utility computing fabric. To prove the point, two user stories were presented. One was a demonstration of SmartAsset, a technology developed by Australian company The Online Workshop and being used by Antarctica New Zealand to track and service assets. The demo showed how geolocation, mapping, software and mobile devices could be integrated into a tight but distributed application. The second, StreetAdvisor, showed an application that advises people on the best streets to live in around the world could be enabled to deliver social networking functionality, including presence. Flexible business models and licensing are also an impirtant part of the mix, he says. The three key principles of the strategy are: 1. The web is the hub 2. The power of choice 3. Small pieces, loosely joined Mital says there must be interconnectivity between what he calls the social mesh and the device mesh. Currently devices are islands of data, but with Software plus Services access will be ubiquitous and data will be synchronised. Microsoft is delivering its Exchange mail server software in multiple ways under the software plus Services umbrella including Exchange, Exchange Online, hybrid and rich client. Microsoft's Live Platform, BizTalk Services and SQL Data Services are also part of the growing mix. The model also caters for situations where users are offline or have poor network connectivity.
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