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Q&A: Microsoft's Bob Muglia details cloud strategy

And he explains what firms should do now to prep for a move to the cloud

By and Idg Enterprise, And Eric Knorr and Infoworld, Computerworld
October 08, 2010 01:10 PM ET
Bob Muglia

Page 5 of 8

One of the things that excites me in general about this time is I that feel like the speed of innovation and our ability to bring technology to market is really increasing. I very much see that in the BI space. We have a SQL conference coming up at the end of this year and there's a whole new round of interesting stuff that we'll be talking about.

Do you have any interest in NoSQL, the "big data" solutions? 

Absolutely. Let's make sure it's all clear. NoSQL has really become SQL and other ways of working with data. The only provocative thing about NoSQL is the name, right? People have been working with non-relational data sets since the beginning of time. Columnar databases, flat files. SQL relational databases are not the way to analyze Web logs. Nobody analyzes Web logs with a relational database. They may sometimes take information out and put it in a data warehouse, but it's an example of a data set that's not naturally suited to the relational model. There's a new capability in SQL Server that we deliver called StreamInsight that's designed to do real time analysis of business information that's not relational. And, for example, our Bing team is using that now to do ad serving based on what a user is actively doing. If you don't have any profile information about a user, you can, based on seeing what sites they're going to, use that information in real time to do better ad serving. That's an example of a NoSQL scenario. It came out of our research and it's used broadly in our Web services. There's a technology called Dryad that essentially does a sophisticated MapReduce on associated Web logs or, again, non-relational data. We're incorporating that into our high-performance computing products, making that available broadly to everyone. This is new in the sense that it enables you to work with this massive amount of data. The idea that you had relational and non-relational data is not new.

Going back to cloud, how do you see this shaking out with your ecosystem of all the companies that build around Microsoft? Do you see in the future that they'd even be able to build into the core applications, the Exchanges, the SharePoints, the Office products? 

The cloud very much will take existing applications forward. But the really exciting thing is the new applications that can be created and the way these things can be brought together or mashed up, to use that term. As we move services like Exchange to the cloud, the ability for people to build applications around that increases, because you'll have standard protocols that are available for people to work with and pull information in and out of those things. The impediment of having to build up the infrastructure associated with deploying these business applications is just gone.

If a customer is using our online services, our Exchange-hosted services, and an application wants to work with contact management information, as an example, for an application that's a logical extension of Exchange, they'll be able to deploy that in a cloud service like Windows Azure and interoperate and work with the data with Exchange, and then simply sell that service to the customer without having to go through the process of talking about the infrastructure.... I mean, very literally, a customer that's operating with, say, Exchange-hosted services could very rapidly trial one of these applications, and begin to get it up and running, with virtually no cost to them. The issue of selling that and actually going through the deployment, all of those things go away.

COO Kevin Turner said in July that leading with cloud helps better position Microsoft to sell on-premise products. What did he mean by that? 

Well, I think what he means is that by explaining the future and helping our customers to know where they're going in the future, they have confidence in what they're doing today. There's a path. No customer is going to cut over immediately to the cloud. That's impossible for any substantive customer to do. They may move their messaging system to the cloud, or they may move a given application to the cloud, but any large customer has hundreds, thousands of applications. The complexity of their environment is very high. But by helping our customers see where they can drive themselves into the future, where they can focus on their business advantage and not need to worry about these infrastructure components, it provides them with a level of security knowing what they're doing today can be brought forward. It's a good balance.

But what about the knock on Microsoft in the sense that you're not pure-play cloud? Some competitors can say: 'Hey, we're all cloud. We're fully committed.' 

This reflects the benefit that I was talking about a few minutes ago where Microsoft has 20 years of experience of working with our enterprise customers and providing them with the services and capabilities they need, and 15 years of experience writing consumer services. If we just had that consumer services experience, I mean if all we had was a hammer, everything would look like a nail to us, too.

But that's not the world our customers live in. Our customers live in a world that's very heterogeneous. There is no significant customer where everything they do is in the cloud today. The fact that we're able to meet the customers' needs with on-premises software, while providing them with these amazing new services that the cloud brings and allowing customers to move at their own speed is actually a huge advantage. It turns out all of our customers see that. Our engagements with customers about where they're going in the future, what they want to do as they roll out a new messaging collaboration service, they're very positive. And, in fact, we're winning the vast, vast majority of all those engagements.

Originally published on www.computerworld.com. Click here to read the original story.

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