July 15, 2013
Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.
--Morpheus, The Matrix
You really have to pity Microsoft a little. They've been victims of some accidentally tragic timing (with a hint of their own karma). What am I talking about? Lets take a step back.
Microsoft has had really
solid okay server side offerings since 1996, when Windows NT 4.0 was released. Sure, they had NT Server 3.x offerings before that, but they sucked. And you know it. At least you do if you were among the relatively few people who used it.
With Windows 2000, the introduction of Active Directory really changed a lot of things, and it has continually improved on the server side since then (regardless of what happened on the desktop side). When PowerShell was introduced, it was like Microsoft telling the world, "We get it".
In the past couple of months, they've taken a really gutsy move to the cloud, and it's been backed in a large way by Azure. Things like moving Office into the web, and cloud-based Active Directory, and all kinds of other things that are shaping up to point to Microsoft providing a lot of the services themselves that previously, small businesses had to implement on their own. They even killed TechNet - if everything is online, why do you need licenses to practice with it?
Given a large enough datacenter pool for Azure, there's absolutely no reason that Microsoft couldn't be the single largest provider of IT services in the world for small businesses. There's just one small wrinkle:
Ed Snowden. When Edward Snowden leaked the information regarding PRISM, it changed a lot of people's perspectives, and as time passes and more information comes out, the aftershocks just keep coming. It was very recently announced by The Guardian that Microsoft collaborated with the NSA to allow access to encrypted information stored in their servers.
This isn't a case of Microsoft just permitting access based on court orders. This is full on collusion, reaching into all of Microsoft's products and services, it seems. It's amazing the difference 12 years makes, isn't it?
This being said, Microsoft is now denying collusion, saying "To be clear, Microsoft does not provide any government with blanket or direct access to SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype or any Microsoft product".
To put it lightly, the rest of the world is not amused. People everywhere are mad, and who could blame them? Right now, if you're in Asia doing business in Africa and use Dropbox, your information is accessible to the US government. Why? "Because we can" is really the only answer that makes sense.
So if you're in Asia doing business in Africa, what are your options? Well, at the moment, they're scant, but if you think things will stay that way, you're deluding yourself. We may very well see the rise of the non-American cloud provider.
Where does this leave Microsoft? Not so great, I'm afraid. When even WindowsITPro.com is questioning your trust, you're in bad shape. Where Microsoft was set to really revamp how small business IT could be run, I'm not sure it will, now. I don't think that the real danger is people leaving Azure in droves; I think it's that it never takes off like it might have, had this not come to light.
To my readers, both foreign and domestic, what are your thoughts? Are you hosted in the cloud? Has this recent news changed your mind?