Azure, BPOS and SPLA make up the Microsoft Cloud. Blue-Cyan and alphabet soup? Is that what the Cloud is? Quite the contrary, these three “black boxes” are a comprehensive set of offerings from the world’s largest purveyor of software. Microsoft’s newest slogan… “The Cloud – We’re all in!” At their Worldwide Partner conference this year they are proving that this is much more than a slogan. In one of the keynotes at this year’s event, Kevin Turner, COO said to a packed house at the Verizon center in Washington DC, “Lead your customers to the Cloud. They are going there anyway, so lead them”.

This bet isn’t new for Microsoft. They started work in earnest about three years ago on the Azure platform, a cloud based data center to be used by applications developers around the world. To be sure the platform has been morphing over the past 3 years… but this week, it has begun to take on a more defined form.

Azure now includes Windows Azure, SQL Azure and even Windows Server. Many in the industry believed this Cloud platform would be just another development environment, but Microsoft has other plans. In this instantiation of their Cloud, they believe the world needs two approaches; complete outsourcing and private/on-premise cloud. So Azure is a development and delivery platform that can be accessed publicly, but is also now available as an ‘appliance’. That’s right, you can now order an Azure and have it delivered to your IT datacenter… but this is not for the faint of heart. The Azure appliance is said to be the size of a cargo ship container! Why? Because Microsoft believes if you are serious about the Cloud, you need something that will scale to thousands of end users right out of the box.

Next is Business Productivity Online Services (or Solutions) – BPOS for short. Ever heard of Google Apps? Well this is Microsoft’s answer to that bundle… it includes Exchange (for Enterprise grade email), SharePoint (for file sharing), Office Communicator (for collaboration) and Dynamics (for Customer Relationship Management – CRM). But not to be outdone by Google, Microsoft now also offers Forefront, Windows Azure, Windows Server and Windows Intune as a part of the BPOS bundle. These services can only be accessed online and Microsoft is the sole service provider.

Last is the Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) – All Microsoft applications can be delivered under this subscription licensing program. It is administered through the Communications Sector business at Microsoft and resold through thousands of Micrsoft SPLA service provider partners around the globe. Citrix Service Providers enable these applications to be delivered to any device over any network to any location.

Some might say this is a complicated, overlapping, difficult to understand approach. But I think Microsoft has a plan that bets on three fronts because the Cloud market is still evolving. Involving thosands of Microsoft parnters in each of these approaches helps to mitigate the risk of a “one-trick-pony” play.

Citrix enables all three of these approaches in one way or another. Our long standing partnership with Microsoft will continue to evolve as we move into this new arena.