Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie provided a fresh take of the technical components at the heart of its online services push on Thursday.
Speaking at the Microsoft Financial Analysts Day, Ozzie spelled out in greatest detail yet the work he has led on "cloud" Internet services.
During the next 12 to 18 months, Microsoft will introduce software and hosted services designed to enhance its current product line and derive more revenue from advertising-supported Web services, Ozzie said.
Echoing comments he made in an interview with CNET News.com earlier this year, he said Microsoft is preparing a multi-layered platform designed to build and run Web-based services or on-premise software coupled with services.
This platform will be made available to all its customers, including business partners, consumers, business customers and software developers. It is part of the wider industry shift from software to software plus services, he said.
"We are the only company with a platform DNA to viably delivery this kind of highly leveraged platform approach to services and we're certainly one of the few companies that has the financial capacity to capitalize on this sea change" he said.
At the foundation of Microsoft's services architecture is what Ozzie called Global Foundation Services, the managed computing gear at Microsoft data centers for running Internet applications.
Next he referred to Cloud Infrastructure Services, the software tuned for utility computing, where outsiders can purchase computing resources as needed.
Cloud Infrastructure Services is "a utility computing fabric on which online services run. It has an efficient, virtualized computing layer application framework that supports different application models for horizontal scaling, the infrastructure for automatic deployment of services" along with storage of different types of data, Ozzie said. It will also have network services software for serving up information to people over the Internet.
Live Platform Services, the next layer, is a set of largely consumer-oriented services, such as verifying a person's user name and password, social-networking services, and other communications-oriented tools. Microsoft's AdCenter ad-service software will be part of this suite of services.
Ozzie said Microsoft is designing this infrastructure so that consumers can access online services from a range of devices, including its Xbox gaming device, PCs, its Zune digital music player, and phones.
Microsoft can also analyze consumer online behavior coming from its data center for more targeted advertising, he added.
For business customers, Microsoft's strategy is to offer enterprises a choice of either on-premise software, Microsoft-hosted services such as outsourced e-mail, or hosted services from Microsoft partners.
Corporations could contract with Microsoft for utility computing-like services, where they would essentially rent computing power or storage capacity to meet anticipated spikes in demand, Ozzie said.
Ozzie stayed clear of making specific product announcements except to say that his goal is to encourage every software developer at Microsoft to add an online services components to all its products.
"The biggest services opportunity is a services relationship to our classic software products," he said.