Microsoft’s ‘shocking’ shift to technology agnosticism

Published on the 25/07/2016 | Written by Donovan Jackson

Microsoft customer focus

In a competitive world, interoperability is essential. And so is customer focus…

Technology should be agnostic and technology providers should play nicely with other technology providers, because this helps customers get things done better. That’s the word from Angie Anderson, director of software engineering for Microsoft’s enterprise cloud group, who, on a recent visit to the Antipodes, provided insight into the vendor’s evolving approach to customers and competition.

“From a Microsoft perspective, we don’t look at competitors as competition, but instead look to work with them. We don’t try to get rid of competing products in customer environments; that does not add value to our customers.”

That seems to make pretty good sense; telling a customer that their technology choices are terrible is unlikely to earn respect. Perhaps surprisingly, Anderson said, “We would not have come to that conclusion two years ago, but Microsoft is driving a culture within engineering to become more customer focused and more customer driven. That reflects in our investments [in technology development] which today is driven by customer validation. Two years ago, this wasn’t how things were done.”

Responsible for Microsoft’s operations management and systems centre products, Anderson was talking in the context of the necessity to manage hybrid cloud environments comprised not only of on-premise private cloud, but also public cloud services from a number of competing vendors.

“The complexity of these environments is blocking the ability for businesses to be agile. So, while we view [the all-cloud environment] as presenting an opportunity and we want to bring them along, we also don’t want to force them along. We don’t think about cloud as ‘a place go’ but rather as ‘a model to follow’. From the customer’s perspective, they should to have access and the ability to manage apps in any cloud or platform. They want hybrid cloud strategies, so our job is to help them manage that environment.”

When explaining to her customers that Microsoft Operations Management allows the ‘agnostic’ management of such situations, Anderson said she “sees the lights go on in their eyes as they realise the investments they have today can be used, they don’t need a whole new set of skills and technology. They can take advantage of interoperability and, in some cases, reduce time managing infrastructure, freeing them to build things that add business value.”

This is so different for Microsoft that, she added “Customers are still sometimes shocked by the change in approach. But it has opened up a lot more conversations from their standpoint.”

Anderson explained that Microsoft’s enterprise cloud group has four areas of focus: Windows Server, Azure, Operations Management and Systems Centre (as mentioned, the last two of which are where her focus lies). “We went ‘general availability’ with the Operations Management Suite last May and have seen tremendous customer growth of over 170 percent,” she said, sheeting that to its ability to handle cross platform and cross cloud environments, “So, Amazon Web Services, Azure, Google. We’re looking at providing complete support of what’s in the market today.”

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