Apple's Cloud Strategy: 10 Signs Apple Is Serious About The Cloud

Apple Looks To The Skies

Apple has made a series of moves in recent months that make clear that its cloud strategy is coming together. To take on growing competitors like Amazon and others, Apple is sharpening its cloud claws and digging in to this growing industry.

Here we look at 10 things Apple has done recently that show cloud computing is not just a blip on its radar screen. And more will likely emerge as WWDC 2011 kicks off June 6.

Apple Leasing New Data Center Space

Apple this week reportedly inked a seven-year lease to use an 11,000 square-foot chunk of data center space in Santa Clara, Calif. Apple is renting the Silicon Valley data center space from DuPont DuPont Fabros Technology (DFT). The lease is expected to begin when the building opens sometime between July and September this year, reports indicate.

Apple's new Silicon Valley data center will join its other West Coast data center space in Newark, Calif., and the data center at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.

Adding new space in Santa Clara shows that Apple is looking to bulk up its compute and storage capabilities to accommodate its impending cloud boom.

Apple Eyes iCloud

Apple's cloud strategy took a major step forward last month when the computing giant reportedly purchased the domain from Swedish storage-as-a-service player Xcerion for a whopping $4.5 million.

Apple's iCloud purchase signals that Apple may be looking to compete with Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon Cloud Player, cloud storage and music streaming services launched recently by Apple cloud rival Amazon. Apple has been rumored to be preparing a cloud storage offering where users can store music, images and other digital media: Will that service be called iCloud?

Xcerion, meanwhile, has changed its product and domain names to CloudMe.

Storming The 'Castle'

It's still unclear whether it's iCloud related, but a French blog recently discovered an Apple cloud play code-named "Castle" while tooling around with a developer preview version of Mac OS X. French blog Consomac were seeking out Find My Mac, iCloud and MobileMe references in the OS and found strings that said "Complete your Castle upgrade" and "Click OK to open System Preferences to complete your upgrade from MobileMe to Castle."

The wording makes it appear that Castle is the code name for the new iCloud service.

MobileMe Makeover Imminent

The rumor mill is spinning that Apple will revamp its flagship MobileMe cloud computing offering. Whether Apple will incorporate iCloud into the new MobileMe remains in question, but some industry watchers predict a new version of MobileMe could be unveiled as early as WWDC 2011, which starts on June 6.

The speculation is that a new version of Apple's MobileMe will include a digital locker service for cloud storage, media streaming and a feature that lets users find and share their locations.

No Deal

Another sign that Apple's cloud strategy is continuing to harden and that a new version of MobileMe is on the way is Apple's termination of a $30 rebate on MobileMe and iWork that accompanied new Mac purchases. The rebate gave Apple customers $30 off of their purchase of the $99 MobileMe if the service was bought alongside a new Mac or iOS device. iWork buyers were offered the same discount.

But a leaked Apple memo indicated that "The 'Buy a Mac and Save $30 on iWork' and 'Buy a Mac and Save $30 on MobileMe' promotions will both end on April 18, 2011. Resellers must remove any reference to these promotions by close of business on that date." The deep-sixing of the rebate program for MobileMe follows a move by Apple to stop selling MobileMe in retail stores and making it only available online.

Welcome Kevin Timmons

Apple has lured Kevin Timmons, general manager of data center services at Microsoft, away from the software giant and has put him at the helm of Apple's data center strategy. Timmons is considered a cloud and data center guru. During his two years at Microsoft, Timmons oversaw construction of Microsoft's massive data centers in Chicago and Dublin, where the software giant houses its cloud services and Bing infrastructure. Apple likely tapped Timmons to perform similar duties as it looks to increase its data center footprint and bulk up its cloud computing presence.

We're Hiring!

Still in doubt about Apple's cloud strategy? Well, look no further than the want ads, or at least Apple's job postings.

In April, Apple posted a job listing for a Cloud Systems Software Engineer. The job description indicated Apple was looking for someone to write software that "forms the foundation" of some of Apple's "most exciting new products and services." The posting adds that the ideal candidate will have experience "designing, implementing and supporting highly scalable applications and Web services" and will "collaborate with cross-functional engineering teams to define and implement some of the company's core backend platform frameworks and systems."


North Carolina Bound

Apple is expected to open a massive 500,000-square-foot data center in Maiden, N.C., in the coming months, a site that will offer 184,000 square feet of fresh data center space for the Cupertino, Calif.-based computing giant. The data center, dubbed the iDataCenter, will serve as Apple's east coast hub and gives it a massive data center presence on both the east and west coasts. The hulking new data center is expected to be Apple's cloud computing center.

iTunes Getting Cloudified?

For nearly a year, the rumor of a cloud-based version of Apple's iTunes software has been making the rounds. But, so far, a cloud based iTunes hasn't reared its head.

A cloud-based iTunes offering would let users store their music and video libraries in the cloud -- on Apple's servers, aside from on their PCs, Macs or own hard drives -- and stream music from any Internet-capable device. That would eliminate the need to always have your iPod by your side. It'd be like a MobileMe just for music and it would be a direct competitor for Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon Cloud Player.

The real question is: Will iCloud be the cloud-based iTunes the industry has been waiting for?

Apple Inks Cloud-Music Deals

Whether Apple's cloud music service will be iCloud, iTunes or something different altogether, Apple is getting its ducks in a row to ensure that it has major record labels on board (and in the cloud). CNET reported this week that Apple has signed a cloud-music licensing agreement with EMI Music and is on the cusp of inking similar deals with Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment. Meanwhile, Warner Music group had a deal in place already.

Apple is expected to lock down the major labels in time for WWDC 2011, meaning it will likely have a big cloud music announcement up its sleeve.