April 2, 2009 By Steve Towns, Editor
Microsoft waded into an increasingly crowded pool of cloud-computing suppliers Wednesday with six on-demand applications designed for government agencies.
Among the offerings are public-records tracking, case management, and licensing and permitting applications. All are built on the company's Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform and are delivered as subscription-based services.
"The Public Sector On-Demand cloud-based solutions we are launching with our partners represent the first of many such hosted applications," said Curt Kolcun, vice president of U.S public sector for Microsoft, in a release announcing the new solutions. "This is a big step forward for Microsoft in providing choice and flexibility in how these solutions are delivered."
Most of the applications already are in use by government agencies as traditional on-premises software, said Amir Capriles, a Microsoft strategic alliance manager, in a pre-release interview with Government Technology.
"These are not brand new applications, per se. They're new in the way they can be deployed," Capriles said. "The difference is that we'll offer them in the cloud."
Along with launching the cloud applications, Microsoft also unveiled a new Web site which it hopes will become a hub for idea-sharing among government agencies, Microsoft and solution developers.
Capriles said the cloud applications -- which are designed for groups of five to 25 users -- target government processes that are now largely done manually. "The intent here is to automate processes that are low complexity and high public impact," he said.
Microsoft's announcement came during a busy week for cloud computing. On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported on the growing number of IT heavyweights -- including Amazon, SalesForce, IBM, Sun and Google -- that are looking to sell cloud computing services to government.
Video: Cloud computing powers agency Web sites.
In addition, IBM unveiled a suite of cloud-based collaboration tools for businesses on Wednesday. The new applications, dubbed LotusLive Engage, include profile and contact management, online meetings, file sharing, instant messaging, and lightweight project management capabilities.
Capriles said growing interest in cloud computing stems for several factors. Tight budgets are making government agencies more inclined to consider subscription-based services, CIOs are trying to move from tactical to strategic activities, and the technology behind cloud computing is improving.
Not all government processes are suitable to run in a cloud environment, he said, but Microsoft intends to quickly expand its cloud-based applications.
"Our expectation is that as more dialog occurs in our online community, more of our partners will develop solutions that will be offered in the cloud," Capriles said. "So we expect our offerings to grow over the next year."
Video: Are Microsoft and IBM in the eye of the storm?
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