Is the color of the cloud Azure?

Microsoft's cloud strategy has to succeed, and the company's playing catch-up.
13 June 2018

Jason Zander, newly appointed head of Microsoft’s Azure division. Source: Microsoft

Microsoft’s realignment from a developer-centric traditional software outfit to an everything-as-they-service (XaaS) provider is a pretty good mirror of the digital transformation which many enterprises are currently undergoing.

The new head of the company’s Azure division, Jason Zander, drew parallels between his employer’s progress and that of many of Microsoft’s larger clients: “I had another partner this morning (who) was asking, ‘Can you come talk to us and explain what you did?’,” he said in an interview with GeekWire recently.

The unnamed partner was referring to the direction Microsoft has taken since Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s leadership has gradually changed the company’s tack to full-steam towards the cloud (to mix a few shipping metaphors).

Microsoft clients seem to be regaining any lost confidence in the company as the new heading becomes apparent.

Microsoft’s big challenge coming up is to take the fight to the other large cloud providers for market dominance, particularly Amazon whose AWS service is the go-to web service provider with a majority share of this burgeoning market.

Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub last week certainly produced a high-profile to a change in tack, even if that overall navigational shift has been long in the planning.

Like all ocean-going ships (should that be cloud-going airships?), the oil tanker of Microsoft has taken a long time to turn.

To some extent, Microsoft and Google have been playing catch-up to Amazon, with some late editions to functionality seemingly arriving as reactions to where AWS has led — machine learning, out-of-the-box face recognition, usability features, and so forth.

But with feature lists gradually reaching equilibrium, Redmond has to differentiate itself from its competitors. One way it might be able to do that is by highlighting its data security credentials, and its relatively clean record when it comes to tales of any profligate data-sharing activities.

With new levels of public interest in what data giants do with the zettabytes of information about everyone & everything, Microsoft, largely untainted in recent years in this respect, could carve itself out in a position: as a place where data can reside without being sold onto (to pluck an example out of thin air) Russian hackers attempting to influence elections.

Microsoft’s historical dominance on the desktop is bound to decline as that platform itself does likewise.

Clients are, to use the vernacular “getting thinner”, and virtualization is becoming a better, more efficient way of managing resources.

The battle for the data center’s underpinnings has Windows in full retreat, so it’s to the presentation of services over the internet to which Microsoft is turning its attention – it may well become de facto again, but it’s got a battle on its hands.

Can the giant oil tanker morph into a warship?