Cloud

How Microsoft is differentiating Azure as the 'business cloud' for the enterprise

At the 2016 Structure Conference, Microsoft's Scott Guthrie explained the three promises of Azure, and how business users are driving their cloud revenue.

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Image: iStockphoto/cherezoff

On Tuesday, at the 2016 Structure Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft's executive vice president of its cloud and enterprise group, Scott Guthrie, explained how Microsoft Azure is differentiating itself in the cloud market and competing with Amazon and Google.

Guthrie started his presentation by explaining the three core promises of Microsoft Azure. First, Microsoft wants to deliver cloud in a global fashion, currently running in 38 regions. Guthrie said that is more than AWS and Google Cloud Platform combined.

Secondly, Microsoft wants to set Azure apart as a trusted option with strong security and more compliance options than other vendors. Finally, Guthrie said, Azure is differentiated through its hybrid approach, hoping to capture companies who have legacy apps that don't translate well to the cloud.

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When asked if every major independent software vendor (ISV) will rely on public cloud to some degree in the future, he said: "I think every company and organization going forward is going to take advantage of public cloud in some form."

In terms of the competitive cloud landscape, Guthrie said that Azure's sweet spot is in operating as the "business cloud." Almost half of their revenue for Azure came from software vendors and ISVs who are targeting businesses, Guthrie said.

Another trend that Azure is looking to capitalize on for enterprise customers is containers. Through its Azure Container Service Engine, it allows users to spin up an environment where they can deploy containerized applications. The engine, which was recently open sourced, also allows the use of any container framework.

"[Containers] are a trend that are absolutely going to be accelerating going forward," Guthrie said.

One of the main concerns from potential customers is that Azure only works well for Windows shops. Guthrie said that this isn't the case, as Microsoft sees more Linux virtual machines (VMs) being spun up in Azure than Windows Server VMs.

In the future, Guthrie said, Microsoft is focusing more on the integration of hardware and software, including heavy investment in field-programmable gate array (FPGA) products. For those unfamiliar, FPGA is basically programmable hardware on a server node, Guthrie said.

Microsoft began using FPGA to offload AI work internally, and it saw tremendous speed gains. They're also using it in servers to accelerate their network and encryption. Now, Guthrie said, Microsoft wants to expose that capability to more customers.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Microsoft believes its Azure cloud platform is the "business cloud" in the market for enterprise customers.
  2. Azure is competing with new innovations in technologies like containers and FPGA.
  3. Microsoft sees more Linux VMs in Azure than Windows Server VMs, which could be evidence that it isn't just for Windows shops.

More from the 2016 Structure Conference

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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