The cloud according to Microsoft: WPC 2012

Microsoft isn't pulling its punches when it comes to selling its strategy and as far as the software giant is concerned it wants to own it all - the applications, the infrastructure and the devices.

The second day of Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC 2012) offered a jam-packed and diverse agenda, which certainly ensured that partners got a good idea of just how encompassing Microsoft’s strategy is.

The message to the partners is clear, Microsoft wants to own the compete conversation from the applications to the infrastructure and the devices that users will work with every day.

The keynote was led by the head of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Division, Satya Nadella, who discussed how Microsoft is changing the way it views the cloud as well as how it works with global partners.

Microsoft’s cloud vision

Continuous services and connected devices were the key themes and it’s pretty clear that Microsoft is pushing very hard for their partner community to buy into their cloud data centre of the future vision.  In fact, a lot of discussion was focussed on how this would give customers who may be concerned about shifting their entire environment out to the cloud, maximum flexibility and choice.

Their vision for the modern data centre is one based on a hybrid cloud architecture that would include Microsoft’s Server 2012 and System Centre tools which will provide the ability to shift workloads from a business’s internal private cloud out to either a partner hosted cloud or Microsoft’s public Azure Cloud.

Nadella went on to highlight that the Bing.com search engine runs on Windows Server 2012 pre-release code along with part of the Azure platform. He also pointed out some interesting statistics from Microsoft’s own research: 

  • 73 per cent of businesses are planning to deploy or use a private cloud style infrastructure
  • 37 per cent of businesses are investing in new applications that take advantage of cloud style architecture
  • Microsoft expects that over the next five years the number of smart devices (phones, tablets, etc.) will be three time the global population
  • Every five years the amount of data on the planet increases by 10 times and 85 per cent of that is new data types that don’t exist today.

Windows Server 2012

As it turns out Windows Server 2012 is on the same schedule as Windows 8, with initial release early August and full release late October.

Microsoft has built Windows Server 2012 and Azure to work hand in hand with a number of shared features such as Authentication, Development Tools and others that ensure developers can build scalable applications and run them wherever they want. Microsoft also pointed out full support for development languages such as NodeJS, PHP and Java, signaling out that they are willing to work with the wider development community and not just lock developers into .NET based applications.

Application Development featured as something Microsoft is really pushing with their partners. This is a smart move, as they really need their partners to come on board and develop applications for the connected devices age with features such as:

  • Rich Application Services – rich and immersive application for ensure users on any device
  • Data at the Core – Business Intelligence and Big Data should become core components of the applications
  • Dynamic Lifecycle – characterised by growing “dev-ops” community around the shorting of the development cycle down to days or hours
  • People-Centric Access – Apps should be built for people to use, a strong emphasis on UI and different screen sizes (phone, table and PC) should be taken in account.

 Again, Microsoft’s strategy to its partners is very clear. You either build clouds with us or you develop applications that run of these clouds. Partners who could not or would not help their customers move to the new cloud- enabled world would be left behind.

Not a lot of products on show

Kirill Tatarinov who runs Microsoft’s Dynamics business came onstage for his keynote. Unfortunately, with no new products to announce, no new features or new customers on board, his keynote didn’t hit the mark with the audience, but his presentation was certainly loaded with buzz words, touting  “big data”, “BI”, “social technologies” and “true enterprise social collaboration.”

Next onstage was Laura Ipsen who is Microsoft’s corporate vice president for public sector. Ipsen wasn’t talking about products but more about how Microsoft was helping out through such programs such as giving Office 365 away for free to students and teachers and their giving program where they match employee donations to a charity. Ipsen did put up an interesting slide talking about the different business models of their competitors:

  • Microsoft puts it’s customers and innovation first
  • Google’s job is to increase ad-revenue
  • Amazon use’s low cost hardware and undercuts the market

Ipsen also showed a great video about how Microsoft is helping out in third world countries with new programs to get PC’s into rural areas and help hospitals with real-time patient data.

Windows Phone draws applause

After Ipsen, Thom Gruhler who is freshly minted marketing lead for Windows Phone came on stage to tell us about developments in the Windows Phone space.

Microsoft is making a big push to show not only developers but also end users how good the platform really is. For most developers or IT teams though the features announced are already commonplace in iOS and Android platforms. Of interest however was that Windows Phone 8 would have not only NFC but also a “wallet” based application that they hope will begin to phase out credit cards along with reward and loyalty cards over the next few years.

Surprisingly, the Windows Phone announcements received the loudest applause of any session so far at WPC and almost every attendee has a Windows Phone, in most cases a Nokia Lumia.

The last presentation of the day was from Microsoft’s Research Division. We were shown new features in Bing (Social Search), the new Pixel Sense tables (old Microsoft Surface Devices) that could let us interact with maps of the solar system in new ways. My favourite of the session was the ability to generate a 3D model of anything using a kinect sensor and then send it to a 3D printer.

Rhys Evans is national practice manager Enterprise Information Systems at Thomas Duryea Consulting.