The Takeaway From Microsoft TechEd 2013: Cloud and Data Power

microsoft1501.pngI’ve finally had the chance to go over some of the highlights of Microsoft’s recent TechEd conference and analyst summit held in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the start of June, a conference in which Microsoft reinforced its direction and commitment to work primarily on expanding the company’s presence and services in the cloud. In this post I’ll look at some relevant aspects of Microsoft’s recent conference announcements and news.

According to Takeshi Numoto, Corporate VP, Server & Tools, Microsoft is taking a clear direction towards improving and expanding its cloud offering in order to better meet customer demand. Towards this end, Microsoft is focusing on specific milestones and strategies, including:

  • cloud computing, with Microsoft’s “cloud-first” focus;

  • the consumerization of IT;

  • the identification and utilization of new social apps patterns;

  • an integrated virtualization strategy; and

  • the availability of a complete data platform.

These drivers are triggering most of Microsoft’s efforts to provide its customers with technology offerings that can meet their new demands. This is pushing Microsoft’s efforts in some of the following directions:

A Focus on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
One of the most important takeaways from the conference and summit was learning how strong Microsoft is pushing all aspects of cloud computing. While it is no surprise that Microsoft, as well as other important software providers, is increasingly pushing its offerings across hybrid solutions to enable seamless connection, management, and data sharing between on-premise and cloud-based technologies, it is worth recognizing the fact that Microsoft is taking proper steps to increase operational transparency and sharing capabilities between cloud and on-premise applications via innovation in many of its products and services.

With the introduction of Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2, to be released by the end of 2013 and available this month for preview, Microsoft is renewing its existing portfolio with new features that follow its very own “cloud-first” focus for further development. What makes these releases interesting are the improvements that enable connection and communication between on-premise and cloud platforms, such as the capabilities of these offerings to almost seamlessly connect and interact with the Windows Azure platform, aiming to create unified management environments for managing corporate resources.

Additionally, by announcing the preview of Windows Azure BizTalk Services, Microsoft expanded its cloud offering for enterprise integration, offering enterprise application integration both on-premise and in the cloud.

Another attractive offering for Microsoft’s customers is its new per-minute billing for virtual machines, Web roles, and worker roles, aimed to help customers take the best economical benefit from the cloud by being charged based on consumption, a feature especially useful for startups, testing environments and small- to medium-sized companies.

Additionally, Microsoft announced an update to Windows Intune, the company’s Mobile Device Management Platform, with new features to reinforce security, the ability to manage mobile devices from cloud-based Intune management solutions or via Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, a broad approach from Microsoft to extend offerings to a wider number of organizations across industries and sizes.

A Comprehensive Data Platform
Among other new products, with the announcement of SQL Server 2014, Microsoft is paving the path for its data management strategy into the future. For example, the new version of SQL Server, planned to be released by the end of this year, offers major improvements, such as the availability of in-memory computing technology for both OLAP and OLTP modes and the ability to create or recompile store procedures in machine code, which, according to the SQL Server Team, can accelerate execution significantly. These and other features in the new SQL Server version make it worth considering when selecting a new data management strategy.

Other highlights of Microsoft’s recent innovations for data management include Microsoft’s efforts on the Windows Azure platform, enabling not just SQL Server functionality in the cloud but tight integration with enterprise services such as Windows Azure Backup and Windows Azure Hyper, Microsoft’s virtualization technology which enables the company to provide secure virtual computing and data services.
Microsoft’s data management strategy looks to be solidly focused on increasing presence in the enterprise segment of the market, fitting with previously announced capabilities such as the company’s approach for big data partnering with Hortonworks. The competition is fierce, especially in the crossover areas of cloud and big data management, site of many of the market battles happening today, but including the augmentation of its presence for enterprises as part of its strategy could position Microsoft as an important competitor.

Other interesting announcements at TechEd featured mobility, such as the Microsoft Intune update and the Windows 8.1 release, but these might deserve their own space. One of the interesting aspects of Microsoft’s technology evolution is its focus on the Cloud OS, meant to provide user transparency between on-premise and cloud environments, giving users and organizations the possibility to work seamlessly around both computing platforms as well as enabling the freedom to migrate between both, which is ideal for organizations with hybrid cloud on-premise solutions and those with progressive cloud migration strategies.

It is hard to deny that Microsoft’s efforts to increase its enterprise portfolio and cloud offerings have potential, especially taking into account the company’s large customer base, making it easy for them to adopt Microsoft’s cloud, data, and mobile management offerings, even with other large companies such as Amazon in the cloud spectrum and other software giants in the data management space offering competitive functionality. Still a long way to the cloud… top.

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