Summary:

When talking about cutting-edge topics like cloud computing and web infrastructure, it can be easy to let startups and niche vendors dominate the discussion. In the first quarter, however, the IT infrastructure market was all about the big boys.

When talking about cutting-edge topics like cloud computing and web infrastructure, it can be easy to let startups and niche vendors dominate the discussion. After all, they’re often the ones driving innovation and issuing case studies that illustrate entirely new methods of computing. In the first quarter, however, the IT infrastructure market was all about the big boys.

As I describe in the latest Quarterly Wrap-up at GigaOM Pro (sub req’d), the big news in cloud computing was general availability of Microsoft Windows Azure and its related suite of services. The company had been touting the platform since October 2008, and the reaction when it finally hit the ground was overwhelmingly (but not entirely) optimistic, thanks in part to Redmond’s smart strategies around partnerships and attracting traditional businesses. In fact, Microsoft also had a hand in the quarter’s second-biggest cloud trend, which was the call for deeper looks into the legal aspects of cloud computing. Microsoft’s Brad Smith called for congressional action on existing laws to account for the cloud.

Meanwhile, CA and VMware both made big splashes in the internal cloud space. Systems-management giant CA did so by announcing an aggressive cloud strategy marked by intriguing acquisitions. After buying NetQos and the floundering Cassatt in 2009, CA kicked off 2010 by folding Oblicore, 3Tera and Nimsoft into its cloud mix. However, just when it looked like CA was set to run away with cloud systems management, VMware executed a coup d’état by acquiring parent company EMC’s Ionix business. Now, VMware will be able to match CA (and others) across a variety of core functionalities, including the very important ability to manage and provision both physical and virtual infrastructure.

The cloud-based collaboration space also saw VMware play a big role by acquiring Zimbra. VMware is not, however, the biggest fish in that pond. During the first quarter alone, IBM updated its Lotus Live strategy and convinced Panasonic to move some 300,000 personnel to the system, and SAP finally got its cloud act together by announcing its StreamWork collaboration and corporate networking service.

Perhaps the only place major vendors and providers didn’t make a mark during the first quarter was in the sometimes contentious debate over open-source software. Discussions over the role of open source in cloud computing and web data centers have inspired many different theories about both business and technology, but it’s quickly become clear that proprietary vendors –- especially large proprietary vendors –- have little to no place at the infrastructural level in these brave new worlds. The database tier provided a prime microcosm of this attitude during the first quarter, as developers debated the merits of open-source NoSQL tools vs. open-source MySQL.

We’ll discuss many of these topics onstage at the upcoming Structure 2010 event, and many more will no doubt surface as the cloud’s leading minds mingle in the hallways and networking receptions. The event’s theme is “Put the Cloud to Work,” and the elevated presence of mega-vendors at all levels indicates those aren’t empty words.

Read the full Q1 report here.

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