Microsoft keeps it cloud open, yet secure for hybrid enterprises

Microsoft Corp. rolled into town Monday with its Cloud Roadshow aimed at providing an exclusive training session for IT staff.

The educational tour comes on the heels of the Oracle’s OpenWorld conference where CEO Mark Hurd boldly stated Oracle Corp. was best positioned to deliver on the promise of cloud computing and that it and one other company would own the lion’s share of the market by 2025. Julia White, general manager, cloud platforms product management at Microsoft, addressed those claims in a roundtable with local journalists following a keynote where she outlined the key elements of the company’s strategy and portfolio.

White said Oracle is actually late to the cloud. “It has been building on-premise technologies and you have to fundamentally shift that at a deep level. I think they have a pretty long journey ahead.” She said Microsoft has adopted a DevOps model where the people who code the services are the ones operating those services as well, and was confident that the Microsoft technology stack does in fact stack up well against Oracle’s.

White pointed out that there only three vendors that can label themselves hyper-scale cloud providers: Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, not Oracle, with Microsoft having more data centre capacity than either Oracle or Google. That is in part due to two new previously announced data centres in Canada, which she said is helping its cloud services gain train traction with customers, including government, as local data centres make moving to Microsoft more feasible by addressing data residency concerns. They will be fully up and running for all customers in 2016.

While Oracle pushed the idea that enterprises need to move everything to the cloud within the next decade, White sees hybrid cloud as being the model going forward for a long time to come. When Microsoft first launched Office 365, it was small businesses who took advantage of it along with enterprises that had finally started clearing away old apps such as Lotus Notes installations. “It was a catalyst for companies to get in early,” she says.

Many organizations still have entrenched ERP systems that have been highly customized and a “lift and shift” approach to the cloud may not always be feasible, said White. Instead, she sees customers leveraging the cloud to pull data and build micro apps to achieve their business goals as well as looking at where it makes sense to build new applications in the cloud rather than migrate the old.

White said moving to the cloud is now driven by the fact it allows organizations to do things they couldn’t do previously, including taking on the “staggering” amount of data generated by the Internet of Things (IoT). “I’m not sure IoT would really be taking off it weren’t for the cloud,” she said. “All devices are less valuable unless they are connected to a cloud service.”

White said 80 per cent of Fortune 500 companies are using Microsoft’s cloud and one of the company’s focuses is making sure it balances security and mobility. “You don’t have to make trade-offs between security and mobility,” she said. “You’re at a competitive disadvantage if you’re not mobile-enabling your workforce.”

White is pleased to see Microsoft Office apps on the dominant iPhone, noting its mobile Outlook app is the most popular for using Google Gmail. Behind the scenes, the cloud allows enterprises to control security and permissions policies on those apps when an employee is using the app on their own device for business or personal use. Text from a corporate document can’t be copied from a corporate Word document and pasted into an email from a personal account, for example.

White said the message is now getting through that Microsoft’s cloud is not a locked-in environment, noting its recent move to make Red Hat Linux available on Azure and the customers should bring to it whatever they have.

“It’s all good business,” she said. Microsoft needs to support everything, including iOS. “We want to live where our customers are.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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