Forecasting clouds – for everyone

Apologies to Charles Dickens, but these days I imagine a lot of people working in IT might describe their world by saying “It was the best of times. It was the cloudiest of times.”

Because the era of cloud computing is here. There is no longer any real argument about that.

Any remaining questions are more of the “when and how” variety, not the “why and who” type.

And yet, despite nearly unanimous agreement around its potential, some businesses have open questions around how best to proceed.

No two companies’ cloud journeys are the same, just as no two businesses are the same.

Some will start with storage and move on to line-of-business apps. Others will experiment with new platforms first before migrating existing infrastructure. And others will do all of the above right out of the gate. There is a right cloud and a right first step for every business.

In the past few months, we’ve highlighted a number of ways people can tap into the cloud’s nearly unlimited potential for business transformation. We’ve talked about the future of productivity – for everyone and every device – in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. We’ve shown a roadmap for the next generation of platforms on both devices and in the cloud. We’ve discussed the amazing insights that lie inside the data generated by a world of ubiquitous computing.

One of Microsoft’s most distinctive qualities is we sit at the center of the Venn diagram that plots the needs of IT Pros, developers and the technology users they support. Sometimes, technology managers and users’ desires appear to be at odds, but we have always believed that magic really happens when they come together and find common cause.

That’s why empowering IT to say “yes” continues to be one of our favorite missions. We know that’s the stance they want to take, and this week at TechEd, we announced products and services that break down the barriers to cloud so they can put even more capability and freedom into the hands of their businesses.

One of the key concepts we talked about was Hybrid Cloud – the ability to seamlessly blend in-house and in-cloud computing resources to enable flexibility, redundancy, stability and scalability for any workload. The trick is making the distinction between the locations of the resources disappear as much as possible and letting circumstance and occasion dictate how resources are distributed between environments. Imagine being able to instantly tap into the power stored in all the batteries in your house regardless of which devices they were installed in. Those are the kind of advances we talked about this week with the general availability of Azure ExpressRoute, Azure Files, new compute intensive VM’s and enhancements to in-region and cross-region networking.

Of course, one of the primary concerns people have when they think about the cloud in an enterprise context is security. Most businesses have adopted a proven set of technologies, methodologies and best practices when it comes to backup, protection and encryption of their sensitive corporate data assets. And the move to the cloud does nothing to diminish the importance of that kind of vigilance and preparedness. In fact, the cloud’s ubiquitous access and cross-platform portability make it even more critical that IT thinks holistically about how to protect their investments while empowering their users. If you can imagine a world where cloud-based assets can be even more secure, resilient and safe than their in-house predecessors, that future got a lot closer this week with built-in antimalware in Microsoft Azure, partnerships with Symantec and Trend Micro and enhanced encryption and data-loss prevention technologies for our productivity tools.

Customers have been incredibly excited about our new Office 365 services coming to more mobile devices and platforms. People clearly love the idea of being able to work anywhere, at any time, on any screen that happens to fit their situation or need. And as discussed, we also know that IT loves being able to say “yes” to that request. The key to creating common ground between the desire for freedom and the need for peace of mind is in a new generation of management tools designed for that purpose. This week, we announced new capabilities for Windows Intune and Office 365 that will help customers protect their data – and be productive – on any device, anywhere. Good news for folks who want to live at the intersection of “possible” and “prudent.”

Finally, we know that it’s always developers that make any new computing environment really sing. While we pride ourselves on delivering many of the capabilities our customers need out of the box, developers do critical work extending and enhancing our products while adapting them to our customer’s unique requirements. We previewed the next release of ASP.Net, plus released new tools built on the Apache Cordova platform for Windows, iOS and Android devices and extensions to Visual Studio Online for application management – in the cloud

TechEd is an important event for Microsoft – one that represents many things. It’s part of our ongoing commitment to IT Pros – to give them the tools they need to deliver business results. It’s a key milestone as the cloud matures into a highly productive environment for enterprise computing. It’s further demonstration of our unique position at the crossroads where IT, developers and business users meet. And it’s over. Smile Until next year, where we’ll have a chance to do it all over again. With feeling. Smile