The week in cloud: Can Windows Azure disrupt Amazon’s cloud? Stay tuned.

Two of Microsoft’s biggest tech events are queued up for the next few weeks, TechEd in New Orleans this week and Build (formerly known as its Professional Developers Conference) later in the month and it doesn’t take a genius to predict that the company will use these occasions to promote the use of Windows Azure as an enterprise-friendly alternative to Amazon Web Services. The question is whether it’s too late.

windows_azureAfter all, AWS is by far the largest provider of public cloud services and many (including Morgan Stanley analysts) see that run continuing well into the next decade. As reported earlier, new Morgan Stanley research projected that AWS will hit $24 billion (with a B) in revenue by 2024 and poses a real threat to all legacy IT providers — companies like Oracle(s orcl), HP(s hpq), VMware(s vmw),  IBM(s ibm), SAP(s sap) and — oh yeah — Microsoft.  I might quibble with the revenue figure — who can project a decade out? — but not with the fact that AWS is already starting to eat these companies’ respective lunches. If any of the top dozen IT vendors in the world aren’t worried about AWS, they should be.

Windows Azure launched three years ago, primarily as a Platform-as-a-Service, to underwhelming response at least to folks out side of Redmond, Wash. The problem was that developers, first at small startups, and increasingly at larger companies flocked to Amazon’s more granular and more basic Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) capabilities.

awslogojpegAmazon had a 3 year head start at that time and then it took Microsoft till April of this year to formally launch its AWS-like IaaS capabilities. When Microsoft subsequently claimed that Azure was already a $1 billion business, many (including yours truly) didn’t buy it. And a clarification of those numbers showed that $1 billion covered a lot of distinctly non-Azure-y stuff like Microsoft software sold via AWS and other cloud or hosting providers.

And in the years it took Microsoft to get its IaaS out the door, Amazon has churned out more, higher level services including things like its DynamoDB NoSQL database.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that Microsoft will respond, not only to AWS, but to an array of other upstart clouds — especially the new Google Compute Engine (s goog) including VMware’s vCloud Hybrid Service. When it rolled out its IaaS services in April, Windows Azure GM Bill Hilf said the company would meet AWS pricing on all basic compute and storage y services and that Azure pricing will be uniform across all geographies and data centers — a not-so-veiled reference to Amazon’s variable pricing. Microsoft runs 8 data centers worldwide, 4 in the U.S., 2 in Europe and 2 in Asia.

So brace yourselves for lots of messaging this week about how Windows Azure is a better, more IT friendly way to set up and run public and especially hybrid — cloud workloads. Microsoft’s pitch is that Azure — which runs Microsoft data centers — will act in concert with outside data centers running the latest Windows Server and Systems Center releases — as a hybrid cloud that can shift workloads back and forth seamlessly (to borrow VMware’s favorite word.)

Microsoft has come into markets way late before and by dint of huge spending and iterative improvements, caught up. Internet Explorer was a pipsqueak compared to Netscape Navigator. Anyone use Navigator now? Didn’t think so. (Of course I’m not sure how many IE users there are any more either.) Still even Windows bashers have to acknowledge that Microsoft’s installed base is humongous. If it can move even a fraction of into Azure, it will be a factor.

As to whether Microsoft can dent AWS and fight off incursions by archrival Google  —  hey if I knew that I’d be on Nantucket now instead of writing tech blogs.

For a lively discussion on the cloud computing competitive landscape, check out GigaOM’s Structure conference where Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft’s Windows and Tools unit; Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon, and Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware will be front and center.

Other cloud computing news from around the interwebs

From GigaOM: Here’s why CERN ditched OpenNebula for OpenStack

From NetworkWorld: Rackspace beefs up cloud networking with Brocade’s Vyatta technology

From Microsoft Hyper-V gains ground against VMware ESX

From ZDnet: User-centric tools go a long way to reaping benefit from big data projects

From Forrester Research: Surprise! CIOs have a radical vision of their world

From SiliconAngle: What CIOs should know about Google Compute Engine.