Major players zero in on cloud computing market


As the cloud computing market grows, the battle for work is getting more fierce, particularly among some of the well-known industry players.
Microsoft, Google and Amazon Web Services have made early inroads, but analysts say much of the market is still yet to be realized.
The federal government has adopted a “cloud-first” policy that makes cloud, or Web-based computing, the default choice and has required agencies to move at least three services to the cloud within an 18-month period. The policy announcements have stoked a growing industry of companies — both those better known for commercial work and traditional contractors — hoping to play a part in the shifts.
In recent months, the competition has grown more heated. Teresa Carlson shook up the sector last year when she left her job as head of Microsoft’s U.S. federal sector to become vice president of Amazon Web Services’ global public sector.
In a statement, Carlson said the move gave her an “outstanding opportunity to join the clear business leader in cloud services and solutions.”
Microsoft has not yet filled her spot, but Curt Kolcun, vice president of Microsoft’s U.S. public sector business, said he is seeking a replacement.
“I’m obviously taking the time to find the right person,” he said. “I don’t think we’re missing anything relative to the market opportunities or how we’re competing for business across the market space.”
More recently, Google and Microsoft have wrangled publicly over whether Google’s cloud offering meets a security certification known as FISMA, and Amazon came under fire for a Northern Virginia data center crash that caused an outage for a cloud hosting multiple Web sites.
Though neither of these events will likely have long-term effects, they are indicative of the kind of rivalries shaping up, said Shawn P. McCarthy, research director at IDC Government Insights.
“This is going to be a very competitive space, and people are going to do what they need to do in order to capture that,” he said.
Ray Valdes, a research director on Gartner’s Internet platforms and Web services team, said the players are carving out niches within different parts of cloud computing. Amazon, for instance, has a clear advantage in the infrastructure segment of cloud computing.
Microsoft and Google, on the other hand, are more focused on providing platforms for the cloud, he said. Both companies have won government work migrating federal agency e-mail programs to the Web.
Microsoft is in the process of shifting the Agriculture Department’s 120,000 e-mail accounts to the cloud, and Kolcun said it has already moved more than 17,000. The agency is moving over 1,600 users each night and expects to complete the shift before the end of the year.
Google partnered with Pennsylvania-based contractor Unisys to win a high-profile job migrating the General Services Administration’s e-mail to the cloud.
“The cloud-first mandate has brought increased awareness to this market that there are other options beyond [the] traditional, in-house data center model,” Carlson said in an e-mail.
McCarthy said he sees room for all three companies — and many others.
“Ultimately it will be a huge business,” he said.


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