There’s nothing more invigorating in our work at Microsoft than meeting with our partners at our annual Worldwide Partner Conference every summer. This terrific event occurs after the close of our fiscal year (June 30th) and is the first major event to kick off our new year. This year’s event was again very special as we offered our view of the digital future and our partners provided theirs.

clip_image002[8]

To see what I mean about Microsoft’s direction and vision, take a few minutes to view a presentation by Bob Muglia, the president of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business, on cloud computing, which is delivering IT as a service. As Muglia says, it’s a vision for everyone to have IT best practices in their shop, without having to build the infrastructure, the platform or the software. Instead, it’s provided to them to empower end users. Microsoft is rolling this into the Windows Azure platform to provide the foundation upon which these next generation cloud applications can be built. This is an open platform for our ISVs and solution providers to build upon.

In Bob’s speech, he announces the Windows Azure™ platform appliance, which is a turnkey cloud platform that customers can deploy in their own datacenter across hundreds to thousands of servers. The appliance is designed for service providers, large enterprises and governments and provides a proven cloud platform that delivers breakthrough datacenter efficiency through innovative power, cooling and automation technologies. We believe that the Azure appliance is ideal for power and utilities companies as it allows them to leverage the benefits of the Windows Azure platform in their own datacenter while maintaining physical control, data sovereignty and regulatory compliance.

We’ve talked in the past about how Microsoft is positioned to deliver integrated solutions through our partners to utilities, for every operational function of the utility. But the Azure platform appliance takes this to the next level by allowing power and utilities companies to reap the benefits of partner solutions for cloud computing for mission critical applications in the confines of their own data centers.

As 2011 draws near and utilities consider the increasing demands of regulatory regimes and difficult economic conditions on their IT systems, we hope you will begin exploring with us the benefits of cloud computing. We know the cloud is not going to be implemented overnight. There is much to do and think about. But it’s incumbent upon us all to become more familiar with this changing paradigm and its implications on future IT expenditures and structures. It’s coming, and we think utilities will be a primary beneficiary of this new dynamic. – Jon C. Arnold