In November, I attended the all-day Microsoft Partner Briefings for the East Region. They spent considerable time covering not just the programs for the Microsoft Partners (such as Monza) but also developments in their offerings like Azure, O365, Windows 10, etc. They had sessions on things like ‘Building the Intelligent Cloud’ and some that really emphasized Microsoft’s increased focus on security, including the new security services for Azure. And there was a chance to network with Microsoft people as well as sponsors like ProArch (www.proarch.com), Bit Titan, etc.
One thing that was interesting to hear was the experience of the larger ‘cloud service provider’ partners (who almost always deal with Azure, and AWS, and Google, IBM, etc. clouds.) In fact, the vast majority do more business today in AWS, but none of them see that situation lasting forever. Unanimously, they all firmly agreed that AWS is the past and Azure is the future.
The key difference between AWS/etc. and Azure, is apparently that not only does Microsoft do cloud for business (public, private, hybrid, and even specialized “.gov” government cloud) better than Amazon, but the business world as a whole is very tired of having some office products licensed on a desktop, some are ‘free’ from Google, some things are in the datacenter, some projects are in this cloud or that cloud, etc. I.e., scattered.
The Microsoft folks shared some fairly well-sourced research showing that the average worker which has already had to learn 4 different frameworks for their job (i.e., Windows 10/Office, Salesforce.com, their corporate intranet on Sharepoint, and AWS’ tools to access the cloud or whatever) suffer a 50% productivity loss in their entire work output as they struggle to master a fifth framework. Businesses need to streamline how their people do their entire jobs, not just add more tools. Microsoft plans to address this by attempting to have it that a user who uses Office365 will be at home in Windows 10, and their O365 will naturally extend into things like Azure cloud as well as things like Skype for Business, Yammer, etc. (They see a lot of company’s adopting Facebook For Business and then really struggling as they run into employees having to learn yet another completely different interface and way of interacting with data, not to mention another system that doesn’t talk to any other systems, etc..)
I learned that the support tiers for Azure are more reasonable than they used to be, with a new ‘mid-tier’ option now available.
I learned some interesting Azure facts:
Microsoft has the third largest fiber network in the world, with sufficient fiber stretching between their datacenters (not counting inside the datacenters, just counting their connections) to go the moon and back three times. It is a $14B hardware investment on their part. They ran a video showcasing all of the biometric security and checkpoints to get into the facility for Microsoft employees, and once the guy is actually inside there’s a whole bunch of pedal push-scooters leaning against the wall — that’s because the facilities are so huge that walking from one part to another is simply impractical.
Finally, more than 85% of the Fortune 500 are on Azure today.
All-in-all, it was a great experience.