It's an archipelago of clouds. The Cloud OS Network, launched Thursday by Microsoft, is the name for a global consortium of more than two dozen Microsoft-validated cloud Relevant Products/Services service providers that use its cloud platform.

The company's platform includes Windows Server with Hyper-V, System Center and Windows Azure, and the consortium is intended to provide consistency across data Relevant Products/Services centers. Providers include Capgemini, Capita IT Services, CSC, Dimension Data, Fujitsu Ltd., Lenovo, Outsourcery, SingTel, Sogeti, Tieto, T-Systems, Doruknet and Workmann. Together, they represent over 425 data centers with more than 2.5 million servers in over 90 markets.

Takeshi Numoto, Microsoft corporate vice president of Cloud and Enterprise Marketing, said in a statement that the network Relevant Products/Services will help customers "create data centers without boundaries for apps, data and device management." Numoto added that this offers a "greater diversity of solutions, more flexibility and lower operations costs."

'Prevents Vendor Lock-In'

In its announcement Microsoft added that this multiplicity of cloud providers "prevents vendor lock-in." Ironically, the company has been accused countless times of locking customers into its proprietary solutions, so apparently this is part of the new Microsoft vision.

There are also a variety of potential advantages of this network for providers. The network members can offer value-added services, such as for hybrid solutions. Other advantages include regional or governmental differences that a regional provider might be better equipped to handle, such as geographical restrictions for certain kinds of data, as well as more effective marketing Relevant Products/Services to potential local customers.

Microsoft gave the example of network partner Outsourcery in the United Kingdom, which is in the midst of an initiative to provide cloud services for businesses of all sizes in that region, as well as services for the U.K. governmental agencies. Similarly, TeleComputing in Norway and Sweden is migrating its large VMware environment to Hyper-V with Microsoft's assistance.

Sending Data to the U.S.

This new consortium gives Microsoft another leg up in the escalating competition with cloud platform providers, including Google, Amazon, IBM, Dropbox, Box and Salesforce, among many others. Almost daily, one or another of these providers is announcing expansions and features. A global network of major providers all running the same software Relevant Products/Services, all validated by Microsoft, certainly raises the bar.

Michael Facemire, an analyst with industry research firm Forrester, pointed out that "a lot of folks don't want to send their data to America" these days, given the widely publicized snooping by the National Security Agency and the fact that U.S. corporations are frequent targets of hackers.

He also noted that "it's always better to have data closer to where you want it delivered." The most extreme example of that, Facemire said, is probably the fact that brokerages are charged higher fees the closer they are physically to the New York Stock Exchange, because they may be able to squeeze out another fraction of a microsecond advantage in trading times.