The "cloud" - a pretty cloudy term, by the way - is becoming more and more important. Software as a Service and other forms of managed services, distributed computing, outsourcing, application virtualization and many other current evolvements are leading into a direction where IT becomes more and more distributed. IT will as well become more complex, because the management of distributed services together with existing internal services for users, which are as well internally as externally, which are increasingly mobile and which work with a growing number of different devices is much more heteregeneous than the "ancient" internal networks for internal users with their PC.

It is no surprise that Microsoft will address these changes as well. There are at least two good reasons for this:

  • If there is money to be earnt, Microsoft isn't far away (even while they are usually not amongst the first in emerging markets)
  • In a distributed world, an operating system originally built for PCs won't fit the requirements any more - and Microsoft will do everything to dominate the future OS market as well
Some weeks ago, the first details about the "Midori" project became public. Midori is the code name for a Microsoft project which deals with the current and upcoming changes for IT infrastructures. It looks like Midori will be a low level platform for running virtual machines. Some of them will be Windows machines or act like Windows. Others might be optimized for other scenarios. That is no surprise, if you have a look at Hyper-V - a layer below the classical operating system.

The interesting point are the consequences that might have. The dominant role of any of today's operating systems might shrink. It is obvious that it is more efficient to run games in a specific game OS. Technical applications might require other operating systems. That might end up with virtual machines which are in fact applications with integrated minimized operating systems, using services provided by a lower level - like "Midori" could be.

There are good reasons for a fundamental change in the world of today's operating systems. But that is not the only area where change should occur. The other open question is how to efficiently work with multiple devices in a mobile and distributed environment. That is not only about having one eMail system regardless of the device, but as well about having one configuration and management and so on - online and offline. This issue isn't solved today. And approaches like Google Apps are far from really providing the solution.

I expect "Midori" not to be the predecessor of Windows but a part of many "incubator initiatives" Microsoft is working on. The reason is simple: It is not only about virtualization and the way operating systems will work in the future but as well about managing these infrastructures - from a user and an enterprise perspective.

Today, the first step has to be to accept that we will observe fundamental changes and that IT will change. The next step for every CIO is to cluster the "cloud" initiatives and trends and to build his roadmap to deal with these changes - integrating the best of the existing technologies and of cloud services today and over the next years.