This is a question that can be explored from many different angles, but I’d like to focus on it from not JUST a virtualization perspective, and not JUST a cloud perspective, and not JUST from my own perspective as a vExpert joining Microsoft, but a more holistic perspective which considers all of this, as well as the core questions of where value exists for the enterprise.
As someone who focused on VMware technologies for over 8 years, I get questions which are variations of the following:
“Has your opinion of VMware changed?”
“Why would you give up all your VMware knowledge and experience, to have to learn a new platform that has less market share today?”
There’s a couple different answers here. One of them is that my thoughts about VMware haven’t really changed. I still remain a big fan of the solutions which have accomplished so much, and especially the community which I’ve enjoyed being a part of these last several years. I don’t view myself as leaving the community – at the end of the day we all share the same goals – but rather I’m viewing it from a different vantage point.
What I REALLY want to talk about here is what I think Microsoft is doing right and how they are incredibly well positioned to help enterprises unlock their potential.
ON-PREMISES x86 VIRTUALIZATION
The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Server Virtualization may not be the final word on all things, but I think few would dispute the positioning as VMware and Microsoft being the only two leaders:
I agree with VMware being the clear leader in this space, however this chart does not take into consideration next year’s release of Windows Server 2016 with MANY new capabilities ranging from Nano Server, and improved ReFS, Azure Stack and many improvements to both Hyper-V and System Center (more on these in upcoming posts). In short, I expect this gap to tighten significantly in the near future.
CLOUD INFRASTRUCTURE AS A SERVICE
On-premise virtualization and cloud solutions are important, but so are those which are hosted and with rich automation, allowing enterprises to quickly scale and use capacity on-demand – something that is much more challenging in an on-premises environment.
Once an IT Director was telling me about how a critical application was spread across 16 different “tiers” of development, test, QA and production such that it was impossible to get a maintenance window and advance changes into production. Today in Azure, customers can position their dev/QA/production elements into logical slots and flip them into production with a simple click.
That’s just a simple example that doesn’t even scratch the amazing depth of automation and function that is available on Azure. And let’s not forget Docker, containers, microservices and more. At one point Azure had a reputation for being a “Windows-only platform”, but this is clearly no longer the case. Many Linux distros are Azure certified and you’ll find Ubuntu, CentOS, Oracle Linux and more, not to mention containerized versions of nginx, rabbitmq, MySQL.
If you haven’t looked at Azure lately you owe it to yourself to take a closer look.
Getting back to the big picture we notice that once again Microsoft is in the leader quadrant, this time behind Amazon Web Services. Notice the pattern?
MOAR CLOUD SEGMENTS
Let’s look at Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Application Platform as a Service…
Again Microsoft is one of two leaders in the market.
And here’s the MQ for Public Cloud Storage Services…
Put another way, here are the leaders Gartner has identified in the 4 quadrants…
The only other company that appeared in a leadership quadrant more than once was Amazon. Only Microsoft can claim to be recognized as being in a leadership position in each of these 4 market segments. Being in a leadership position in EACH quadrant provides an amazing breadth, synergy and an ability to execute on many fronts.
Add to this the success and growth with Surface, Windows 10, XBOX and emerging technologies like Hololens and you have a pretty exciting company to be a part of with great solutions to offer to customers.
The New Microsoft
Just a few years ago some had written off Microsoft as dead or dying based on the proliferation of mobile devices and cloud, but Microsoft has transformed into a leader in the cloud space, which all those mobile applications need on the back end. Microsoft has embraced development on platforms like Android and iOS while Microsoft embraces Linux in its own cloud.
Microsoft is now spending in excess of their R&D budget of $10 billion on building data centers. Again that’s over $10 billion each year on datacenters at the current rate.
And what I’ve already witnessed within Microsoft’s culture is nothing short of impressive. It is a culture that encourages people to interact and build relationships beyond the silos and the org charts. It is a culture that encourages collaboration, teamwork, responsibility and excellence while enabling “fast zebras” to successfully execute their mission. I may expand on this in a future post, but Microsoft’s leadership team set out to remake the culture a few years ago and those efforts have clearly begun to bear fruit.
Somewhat of a sidebar here but when I look at the tech market, there seems to be an unbalance of sorts in “the force”.
Consider this chart of market capitalization. Apple’s position in the mobile device market is well deserved, but now look at this chart a different way – both Amazon and Microsoft play in both the consumer and the enterprise markets, but Apple for the most part is focused on consumer devices.
Is this level of market capitalization for Apple justified when they do not have a presence in the enterprise cloud space – the very cloud space that powers the back end for so many mobile applications? Financials aside, it seems to me that a mobile device maker can’t ultimately sustain this valuation simply by maintaining a leading market share in mobile devices. And let’s not overlook that Microsoft is preparing to re-enter the mobile market with Windows 10 Mobile.
My focus at Microsoft will mostly revolve around Hyper-V and Azure and between the upcoming release of Windows Server 2016 and continuing Azure developments I couldn’t be more excited about what we will be able to do for customers building hybrid clouds as a leader in BOTH x86 virtualization and hosted IaaS (Azure).
On a personal level, I am taking some risk in stepping away from the familiarity of VMware to learn the nuances of a platform which is more unfamiliar to me, but I expect this risk to pay off in the long run. While Microsoft may compete with VMware at some levels, both also co-exist at many more levels. In my mind I’m not stepping away from the VMware community as much as I’m changing my vantage point. I have great respect for VMware and the community I’ve enjoyed being a part of over the years and none of that has changed. But my focus will be changing to Microsoft platforms for the reasons noted above and I couldn’t be more excited.