Although Amazon does offer a billing service, load balancing, databases and a variety of other tools designed for developers, Amazon has not made any significant moves into PaaS, MacDonald says. Amazon says its approach prevents customers from "being locked into a particular programming model, language or operating system."
But Microsoft's Windows Server hosting does put the two companies into more direct competition, MacDonald says.
Perhaps most crucially for Microsoft, the VM Role service gives CEO Steve Ballmer and his cloud team a more viable way of competing against VMware, which has partnerships designed to provide both PaaS offerings and the VM hosting capabilities needed to move applications to the cloud.
"The customers need to have an easier on-ramp to cloud computing, and Microsoft wasn't providing that and their biggest competitor was," MacDonald says. "This was a gap they had to fill and I'm glad to see they've done it. I'd say it's two years late. It doesn't mean they're too late, but they should have done this from day one."
As for the Web hosters who now find themselves in competition against Microsoft, MacDonald says they will simply "have to evolve."
Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.