Earlier in the week, Microsoft talked up a storm about its Dynamics CRM Online as well as cash incentives to take it up. But the tough talk was only part of a wider piece from Microsoft about its cloud strategy. Could it be that Microsoft is finally nailing down the nuts and bolts of what it wants to do in the cloud?

Well, if not a complete strategy, it certainly gives room for reflection over the Labor Day weekend (if you haven’t been invited anywhere) and contains some nuggets that should be of interest.

In particular, Microsoft pitches itself as the White Knight of business and price efficiency, opposing the Dark Forces of virtualization and additional virtual boxes, epitomized by VMware.

Cloud Computing Market

The piece in question appears in the Microsoft News Center and focuses on Microsoft and cloud computing in a market that is expected to grow from $40.7 billion in 2011 to more than $241 billion by 2020.

And these are not Microsoft figures, either; they appear in the Microsoft article courtesy of Forrester, which published them in the report from April this year entitled Sizing the Cloud by Stefan Ried and Holger Kisker.

The article consists of an interview with corporate vice presidents Brad Anderson and Michael Park, from the Management and Security Division and Business Solutions Division, and they used the occasion to showcase their offerings at a time when both VMware and Salesforce were having their annual shindigs.

Microsoft, Virtualization

In answer to the question of why Microsoft is launching a new advertising campaign and incentives around Dynamics CRM, Anderson said that now “is the time to provide the information businesses need to make informed decisions about where to invest."

He didn’t mention the Salesforce or VMware conferences, but he did say that he wanted to help prospective clients understand the difference between Microsoft’s private cloud and VMware’’s version of it.

He then outlined what Microsoft sees as "post-virtualization." He says for Microsoft, virtualization does not mean cloud computing; virtualization is only a step on the way to private clouds.

The post-virtualization stage, using cloud investments to date,  is an era of “… quickly deployed solutions without having to worry about hardware, economics of scale… and the ability to focus on applications that drive business value -- instead of the underlying technology."

Microsoft, the Cloud

The key to Microsoft’s approach, Anderson says, is that it provides a comprehensive cloud strategy. In other words, Microsoft his focusing on providing public cloud, private cloud, SaaS singly or in combination.

The difference with a virtualization strategy -- notably VMware’s strategy -- is that it is focused on the deployment and consolidation of virtual boxes. But then VMware can focus on this because its mothership, in the shape of EMC, can provide the rest.

Microsoft’s solutions, he adds, are also considerably easier to use and at a considerable price difference over VMware, is some cases by as much as 10 times cheaper.

This, he says is based on the fact that VMware’s private cloud solution, Cloud Infrastructure Suite, appears to be priced by adding either virtual machines or memory to run mission-critical applications, charging you more as you grow.

Microsoft’s private cloud solutions, on the other hand, are licensed on a per-processor basis, which means users get the cloud computing benefits of scale with unlimited virtualization and lower costs.

With Microsoft, as your workload density increases, so does your ROI. With VMware, as your workload density increases, so do your costs, which is kind of counter to the promise of the cloud…VMware is really just a virtualization company trying to talk cloud…”

Cloud Use

Park adds that Microsoft is looking at a future where companies will evaluate an entire portfolio of applications, platforms and infrastructure to see which ones, if not all, can move to the cloud.

Companies will also be looking to augment local resources through either a private, or public cloud or build transformative applications that increase the computing power available to any server, PC or device.

Ultimately, Parks says, Microsoft’s strategy looks broadly across the infrastructure, platform and application layers of the cloud, and it has been building solutions in all of these areas, from Windows Server and System Center to Windows Azure to Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.