News briefs: Sidelining rivalry, Microsoft and Oracle partner in cloud

In this week's news briefs, Microsoft and Oracle partner in the cloud, Heroku gets a CEO from a rival, and a new Microsoft data center comes to Iowa.

Microsoft and Oracle partner in the cloud

Two of the cloud space's biggest competitors laid down their arms this week, with Microsoft announcing its decision to run Oracle apps on Windows Azure. Oracle's databases and middleware, including Java, will expand from their spot on Windows Server to join Microsoft's apps on the Azure cloud. Oracle will also make Oracle Linux -- Oracle's own distribution of the open source operating system -- available to Azure customers. Pressure from emerging competitors prompted the former adversaries' decision to partner, Reuters reported, as the two companies struggle to stay competitive on pricing and features. By supporting Oracle Linux and Java software on Azure, Microsoft is effectively promoting the rival to its own Windows platform, though it will still pull in revenue from customers using its cloud services, regardless of the software underneath. As SearchWindowsServer noted, the partnership boosts Hyper-V's competitiveness with VMware's vSphere platform, given the added support for major enterprises in Oracle's customer base. The news comes alongside Oracle's announcements of a nine-year partnership with customer-relationship management specialist Salesforce.com, which will integrate the two companies' clouds and its move to ally with Software as a Service provider Netsuite to deliver cloud services to midsize businesses.

Microsoft expands data center operations in Iowa

In a move it has dubbed "Project Mountain," Microsoft is funneling $678 million into a new data center in West Des Moines, Iowa. As the Des Moines Register pointed out, the IT giant already has around 50 employees and 40 acres of land in the Des Moines area where it plans to expand its data center operations for supporting cloud services such as Office 365 and Xbox Live. Other tech companies, including Google and Facebook, have also built data centers in Iowa, where the risk of natural disasters is low, hydroelectric power is cheap and sustainable, and tax incentives are generous. Microsoft will net $20 million in tax credits for the move, as approved by the state's Economic Development Authority Board, and as much as $6 million in a five-year rebate from the West Des Moines City Council.

VMware leader steps in as Heroku CEO

VMware vet Tod Nielsen is switching things up with a move to become CEO of Heroku, a Platform as a Service (PaaS) provider Salesforce acquired in late 2010. After more than a decade at Microsoft and stints at BEA Systems, Oracle and Borland Software, Nielsen spent years in the upper echelons of VMware as chief operating officer and co-president of the company's application platform group. Most recently, he helped run the VMware and EMC spin-off known as the Pivotal Initiative, a PaaS offering built on Cloud Foundry, open source PaaS software developed by VMware. Pivotal took fellow open source-based Heroku head-on when the spin-off's formation was announced last December. Part of Nielsen's focus at Heroku, according to GigaOM, will be to play up the distinct, complementary and ultimately non-competitive nature of the offerings from Heroku and Salesforce's Force.com development platform.

Too much confidence in cloud? Security survey shows immaturity

Confidence in cloud security appears to be expanding, despite a lack of understanding of how providers keep information secure. A global survey of more than 4,000 business professionals by information security vendor Thales e-Security and the Ponemon Institute revealed that 53% of respondents are moving confidential or sensitive data into the cloud, but just 30% said they know how their provider protects the data. Some 56% of respondents indicated confidence in their cloud providers' security measures -- up from 41% last year. But as Thales' Vice President of Product Strategy Richard Moulds told Computer Weekly, that confidence indicates an underlying naiveté. "The results are indicative of an immature state, and immaturity gives rise to wishful thinking," he said. Moulds highlighted the fact that 33% of respondents believed the onus was on the provider to keep organizational data secure, when that responsibility actually falls on the consumer.

Avaya offers consulting for cloud-based UCC

Capitalizing on a movement toward deploying cloud-based unified communications and collaboration (UCC), Avaya debuted consulting services to ease the adoption of UCC tools in the cloud. According to a press release, Avaya plans to focus on network security and self-service automation technology, and to cut complexity and minimize the risk involved with cloud-based collaboration tools. The offering is two-pronged: Cloud Transformation Services will give companies customizable frameworks for adopting cloud communications strategies, while the subscription-based Continuous Performance Services will provide technology-specific consulting for enterprises. Since 47% of the surveyed Avaya users are evaluating cloud communication strategies or already working on their deployment, Avaya said the consulting options will benefit large enterprises as well as cloud service providers.

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