Microsoft owns the enterprise. Don’t expect it to be letting go of even the tiniest sliver anytime soon. In the last few months the world’s biggest software company has upped its data game, its analytics tools, its database, brought Office to the iPad and new Enterprise File Sync and Share (via OneDrive) capabilities to businesses.
Though all of this is easy to say, it’s substantial, especially when you consider that sales of its “new” and/or ”new and improved” products are booming. Take for example that Office for iPad has been downloaded from the app store 27 million times in just over a month, that SQL is growing faster than the competition, and that its BI and Analytics tools rank near the top of Gartner’s Leaders Quadrant.
And if that isn’t enough to stake the future on, yesterday at Microsoft’s TechEd conference in Houston, the company announced a whole slew of new products, features and tools for the Mobile-First, Cloud-First world which it (and many, many other vendors) is in the midst of defining.
One interesting part of Microsoft’s definition, according to Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Microsoft, is that the public cloud should be considered part of the data center.
The cloud is integral to your data center from this point forward,” he says. “And the cloud is going to deliver things to you and enable you to do things you've never been able to deliver to your customers and to your end users in the past.”
Microsoft’s Cloud-First Enterprise Play
Not all clouds are created equal, says Anderson. He insists that choosing a hyper scale vendor (public cloud provider that is literally deploying hundreds of thousands of servers per year) is a must. Ditto for a cloud that is truly enterprise-grade, meaning that its provider will comply with “regulatory laws and the things that we're going to have to deal with from a data sovereignty perspective, and will build those capabilities natively into the public cloud.” And lastly, the public cloud provider should already be delivering hybrid cloud capabilities. “You want that ability to be able to build an application on any cloud, deploy in any cloud. You don't want to be locked in, you have to have that flexibility,” he says.
Who provides such a cloud? Microsoft, of course. Its name? Azure. Anderson says that it’s getting two billion authentications per day.
Microsoft Paves the Way to the Cloud
The task of moving data from on premises to the cloud might seem daunting to some, but Microsoft hopes to make it more manageable via ExpressRoute. It makes it easier and faster to move information to and from the cloud. This capability can be leveraged via Microsoft’s alliances with providers such as AT&T, BT, Equinix, Level 3, SingTel, TelecityGroup, Verizon and Zadara Storage. Microsoft says that ExpressRoute offers enterprises new options for embracing the cloud, including fast speeds, security and reliability features, and low latency.
But moving to and from the cloud demands clearing another hurdle, as well, because Cloud storage was, for the most part, designed for applications “born in the cloud,” not on premises. Up until now, it has been necessary to rewrite the storage stack before transitioning applications. Not anymore. Microsoft is announcing the preview of Azure Files, which is supposed to make it easier.
Microsoft Makes It Easy to Share
If you haven’t yet heard a vendor slam its competition for building silos in the sky, get ready -- it’s all the big players are talking about. The basis for the “no silo” argument is that applications and data on one cloud should be able to talk to the next. Amazon is typically the one everyone wants to rag on now, but it’s not hard to guess who might be next.
It won’t be Microsoft. At TechEd they introduced SLA Management which allows you to take the capabilities you have in your data center or in the public cloud, build an API on that, and then expose them to your partners and to your customers in a controlled manner.
The APIs then become manageable via an API management tool which is in preview. It allows you, your customers and partners to build applications that can now cross the boundaries of their clouds.
Protection in the Cloud
Two of the biggest concerns enterprises have about the cloud are security and protection. Microsoft has a slew of new tools to help you with that.
Beginning in May, Microsoft will make Microsoft Azure Site Recovery available for preview, which promises to enable customers to replicate and recover virtual machines and services to Azure in the event of an outage at their primary data center.
The company is also releasing for preview Microsoft Antimalware for Azure, which offers customers the ability to install an anti-malware agent for both cloud services and virtual machines.
Beginning in July, Microsoft will deploy new encryption technology for Microsoft Office 365 business customers, ensuring that every file stored in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business is encrypted with its own key for highly secure content storage.
And finally next month it will make existing data loss prevention capabilities available in Exchange. They will be expanded to include documents stored in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business for Office 365 E3 enterprise customers. Data loss prevention helps prevent the sharing of sensitive content inside and outside an organization.
Not Just any Cloud
While all of these announcements may seem tedious and possibly even overwhelming, it’s information you need to know.
We’re on the brink of making big changes and they’ll have big implications for years to come. Explore what different cloud providers have to offer, their differences, their partners, their support and where they fit into your future.
The cloud is the new operating system. It’s important that you bet on a winner and Microsoft is certainly one you should consider.
Tomorrow, Microsoft’s mobile announcements and their implications.
"Mobility and cloud are the future of business,” says Anderson, “and the future is now."