News & Insights for the AI Journey|Monday, April 22, 2019
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Nadella Pep Talk Stresses Microsoft ‘Ecosystem’ 

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivered a pep talk to the company's partner network this week in which he sought to flesh out the company's strategy for a "mobile-first, cloud-first world."

Addressing the Microsoft Partner Conference in Washington, DC, Nadella stressed not only the current industry buzzword, "ecosystem," but what the software giant is doing to boost customer productivity.

"We now need to redefine what it means to build an ecosystem in a mobile-first, cloud-first world," Nadella told company partners. "That is what we will continue to push for."

That effort includes development of what the Microsoft chief called an "OS for human activity." Microsoft's "cloud operating system" represents "a datacenter backplane for all computing needs, of a complex enterprise" built on private, public, and hybrid clouds.

That, he argued, puts Microsoft in a position to "build that enterprise-grade infrastructure that meets the realities of the geopolitics of the world, the regulatory regime of the world [while delivering the necessary] hyperscale economics," Nadella said.

He then ticked off components of the Microsoft "datacenter backplane," including Azure disaster recovery and tiered storage appliances like the recently released StorSimple offering. Together, those components are designed to add value to customers' IT investment "as opposed to just trying to rip and replace an entire [IT] architecture," he said.

"Providing that one infrastructure backplane is, I believe, one of the biggest benefits that this ecosystem can drive in the marketplace," Nadella asserted.

Along with managing multiple devices applications, he also argued that the Microsoft "control backplane" could be used to manage multiple Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. Among these are data analytics applications on a big data platform. The platform will include storage capacity for SQL and non-SQL database applications, he said.

"That's a place where we as an ecosystem can truly help organizations be more productive because of a 'data culture' that we have enabled, not just big data."

The Microsoft ecosystem also stresses application development on an open platform. Nadella said about 15 percent of Azure currently runs on "various packages of Linux" and added that "we want to thrive in this heterogeneous world when it comes to the public cloud."

During the conference, Microsoft demonstrated of its Project Siena tool designed to access APIs in stored in SaaS and convert them into business applications.

Farther afield, Nadella predicted that what he called the "Internet of Your Things" would generate "an explosion in spend, a shift in spend" as an estimated 3 billion connected devices and more than 200 billion sensors are deployed as part of the Internet of Things.

Nadella's address repeated a number of themes he fleshed out in a July 10 memo to Microsoft employees. The memo's references to "leaner business processes" and "taking actions to flatten the organization" have prompted speculation that he is considering layoffs. Nadella did not address those issues during his conference presentation.

However, his pep talk did end with the admonition based on a quotation from the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: "Courage in the face of reality, and in the face of opportunity."

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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