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Core Competencies and Cloud Computing

Thursday, 9 September 2010 4:56 pm

Wikipedia defines Core Competency as:

Core competencies are particular strengths relative to other organizations in the industry which provide the fundamental basis for the provision of added value. Core competencies are the collective learning in organizations, and involve how to coordinate diverse production skills and integrate multiple streams of technologies. It is communication, an involvement and a deep commitment to working across organizational boundaries.

 

So, what does this have to do with Cloud Computing?

I got thinking about different providers of cloud computing environments. If you abstract away the specific feature set of each provider what were the differences remaining that set these providers apart from each other.

Now, I actually starting thinking about this backwards. I asked myself why Microsoft Windows Azure couldn’t do a Google App Engine and offer free applications. I had to stop myself there and go off to wikipedia and remind myself of the quotas that go along with an App Engine free application:

 

Hard limits

Apps per developer
10

Time per request
30 sec

Blobstore size (total file size per app)
2 GB

HTTP response size
10 MB

Datastore item size
1 MB

Application code size
150 MB

Free quotas

Emails per day
2,000

Bandwidth in per day
1,000 MB

Bandwidth out per day
1,000 MB

CPU time per day
6.5 hours per day

HTTP Requests per Day
1,300,000*

Datastore API calls per day
10,000,000*

Data stored
1 GB

URLFetch API calls per day..
657,084*

Now the reason why i even asked this question, was the fact that I got whacked with quite a bit of a bill for the original Windows Azure Feed Reader I wrote earlier this year. That was for my honours year university project, so I couldn’t really complain. But looking at those quotas from Google, I could have done that project many times over for free.

This got me thinking. Why does Google offer that and not Microsoft? Both of these companies are industry giants, and both have boatloads of CPU cycles.

Now, Google, besides doing its best not to be evil, benefits when you use the web more.  And how do they do that? They go off and create Google App Engine. Then they allow the average dev to write an app they want to write and run it. For free. Seriously, how many websites run on App Engine’s free offering?

Second, Google is a Python shop. Every time someone writes a new Library or comes up with a novel approach to something, Google benefits. As Python use increases, some of that code is going to be contributed right back into the Python open source project. Google benefits again. Python development is a Google Core competency.

Finally, Google is much maligned for its approach to software development: thrown stuff against the wall and see what sticks. By giving the widest possible number of devs space to go crazy, the more apps are going to take off.

So, those are all Googles core competencies:

  1. Encouraging web use
  2. Python
  3. See what sticks

And those are perfectly reflected in App Engine.

Lets contrast this to Microsoft.

Microsoft cater to writing line of business applications. They don’t mess around. Their core competency, in other words, is other companies IT departments. Even when one looks outside the developer side of things, one sees that Microsoft office and windows are all offered primarily to the enterprise customer. The consumer versions of said products aren’t worth the bits and bytes they take up on disk. Hence, windows Azure is aimed squarely at companies who can pay for it, rather than enthusiasts.

Secondly, Windows Azure uses the .Net Framework, another uniquely Microsoft core competency.  With it, it leverages the C# language. Now, it  is true that .net is not limited to Windows, nor is Windows Azure  a C# only affair. However, anything that runs on Windows Azure leverages the CLR and the DLR. Two pieces of technology that make .Net tick.

Finally, and somewhat  related, Microsoft has a huge install base of dedicated Visual Studio users. Microsoft has leveraged this by creating a comprehensive suite of Windows Azure Tools.

Hopefully you can see where I’m going with this. Giving stuff away for free for enthusiasts to use is not a Microsoft core competency. Even with Visual Studio Express, there are limits. Limits clearly defined by what enterprises would need. You need to pay through the nose for those.

So Microsoft core competencies are:

  1. Line of Business devs
  2. .Net, C# and the CLR/DLR
  3. Visual Studio

Now, back to what started this thought exercise – Google App Engines free offering. As you can see its a uniquely Google core competency, not a Microsoft one.

Now, what core competencies does Amazon display in Amazon Web Services?

Quite simply, Amazon doesn’t care who you are or what you want to do, they will provide you with a solid service at a very affordable price and sell you all the extra services you can handle. Amazon does the same things with everything else, so why not cloud computing. Actually, AWS is brilliantly cheap. Really. This is Amazon’s one great core competency and they excel at it.

So, back to what started this thought exercise – a free option. Because of its core Competencies, Google is uniquely positioned to do it. And by thinking about it, Microsoft and Amazon’s lack of a similar offering becomes obvious.

Also, I mentioned the cost of Windows Azure.

Google App Engine and its free option mean that university lecturers are choosing to teach their classes using Python and App Engine rather than C# and Windows Azure.

Remember what a core competency is. Wikipedia defines Core Competency as:

Core competencies are particular strengths relative to other organizations in the industry which provide the fundamental basis for the provision of added value. Core competencies are the collective learning in organizations, and involve how to coordinate diverse production skills and integrate multiple streams of technologies. It is communication, an involvement and a deep commitment to working across organizational boundaries.

I guess the question is, which offering make the most of their parent companies core competencies? And is this a good thing?

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