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Microsoft bucks its own history, embraces “openness” in push for Azure adoption

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It’s not often you write “Microsoft(s msft)” and”open” in the same sentence but, well, these are special times. The company is straining to make its Azure cloud service a bona fide rival to Amazon Web Services(s amzn), and believes that offering customers openness and options are one way it can stand out.

“It’s a change from the historical Microsoft by embracing openness in a new way,” said Scott Guthrie, EVP of the company’s cloud and enterprise group, speaking Wednesday at Gigaom Structure in San Francisco.

Guthrie pointed out that Azure offers tools for clients to run Linux and a wide variety of SDK’s, and touted its drag-and-drop machine tools for machine learning as a “democratic” way for companies to get more analytics.

Despite this pledge to play well with others, Microsoft still faces a challenge in getting non-Windows shops to give Azure a try rather than turning to the more familiar Amazon or to Google Cloud, which is rapidly gaining momentum.

Guthrie said Microsoft’s advantage may lie in its ability to offer a continuum of services, from bare bones storage to managed services to high level, hands-on support. He explained that the business solution for Microsoft is not “raw atoms” but moving up the stack.

Elite service and flexibility, combined with enterprise customers’ opportunity to use a hybrid cloud — by combining information in the public Azure cloud with onsite sensitive data — will help entrench Microsoft as a big-time cloud player, he said.

As for the ever-plummeting cost of cloud computing, in which Amazon and Google are dropping prices lower and lower, Microsoft is glad to be part of this game, Guthrie said.

“Every time one of the commodity prices goes down, we match in 48 hours,” he said, adding that this phenomenon of a deflationary platform is good for everyone — except, perhaps, other software vendors.

This story was amended at 730PM ET to delete a quote by Guthrie about the NSA, which lacked supporting context

Photo by Jakub Mosur

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14 Responses to “Microsoft bucks its own history, embraces “openness” in push for Azure adoption”

  1. Sam Moffatt

    Microsoft has embraced open standards in it’s history quite regularly and tweaked them to their own “standards”. They did this with email, they did this with Kerberos and LDAP (otherwise known as “Active Directory”) and they’re continuing to do this now. What they do in half a decade will show it’s embrace of “openness”.

  2. Jerry Voelker

    I would like to know how this article was published? When I was a professor, if one of my students turned in a written assignment with so many factual errors and erroneous assumptions based on misinformation, I would have given them an F.

    As a person, this really angers me. This is your profession – I see moronic articles all the time in the tech sphere [usually skewed against Microsoft based on some decades old history (as here) or thru misinformation (again, as here)].

    “It’s not often you write “Microsoft” and ”open” in the same sentence but, well, these are special times.”

    While I am sure that this will be a wasted effort as you didn’t even bother to peruse the list of old OSS projects (, as someone in the technology sphere, do you not at least remember Build a few weeks ago? Technologies that have proven key to Microsoft recently were made open source – such as
    Roslyn, ASP.Net, C#, Entity Framework, etc.

    I specialized in F# and that has been open source for years. The Azure team has been much more friendly to open source than greater Microsoft since their inception. This is what I find especially galling about this dubious article.

    As it stands, this post should be completely rewritten once the author has done some actual research on the topic. I find this abhorrent that a site such as GigaOm would allow this to be published. Is there any sort of editorial process aside from clicking publish?

    • What a WAY over the top, myopic comment Jerry. Here is a quote from Guthrie himself: “It’s a change from the historical Microsoft by embracing openness in a new way,”

      Maybe you should drop him an email and tell him about F#.

  3. George

    “….A bone fine rival to Google Cloud…” ? How does being bigger than Google Cloud put Microsoft Azure in a position to have to look up to it? The only cloud provider Microsoft has in its sights is Amazon, the only provider ahead of it.

  4. AmazonCloud

    It’s annoying reading articles like this when the author clearly has no experience in cloud technology. Google cloud is a joke and lags behind MS Azure by at least 2 years.

    • Barb is our cloud expert, and I concede I’m less familiar with the topic. As per my reply to Jeff above, I’ve tweaked the phrasing in the story but, given Google Cloud’s momentum and Azure’s limited appeal to non-Windows shops, I don’t think you would call Google a joke

  5. Gustav Hartvigsson

    Microsoft still needs to make a “patent promise” for it to ever be accepted in the community.
    Until a Patent Promise is made, no one can trust Microsoft.

    A patent promise is to never ever use patents to sue any person or company, and only use the patents in self defence against other patent claims. This is the bedrock on which many successful companies have built their success.

    • @Gustav Hartvigsson

      And who else is making “patent promises”? Not Apple, Google, or Samsung.

      All players in the market are using patents to shield themselves, it’s the reality. Same goes for the “open” statement. Good luck with moving your cloud services from one provider to another.

  6. Jeff Putz

    People see what they want to see. Microsoft is like many companies, and this particular part of the company has been pushing to be more and more open for years, regardless of whether or not you were paying attention. I worked in DevDiv for several years, and even back in 2009 ScottGu and people in that org were pushing toward the massive trend you see now, open sourcing compilers and frameworks at the broadest level.

    I respect these guys to no end, and now that I’m not on the inside, respect how far Azure has come. “Bona fide rival?” Last I checked, they were way ahead of Google Cloud.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jeff. I think it is fair to say Google Cloud is a bona fide rival given its recent momentum. But you’re right that Microsoft’s market share is still bigger — I’ve tweaked the language of the story to reflect this.

  7. Howard Lee Harkness

    “It’s not often you write “Microsoft” and”open” in the same sentence but…”

    It’s called “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.” Nothing new here.

    • blargie

      My god, that old saw? Still? Fine, you don’t trust Microsoft, but at least find some more recent examples – bringing that one up says more about your lack of imagination than it does about Microsoft’s bad practises.

    • Travis Sturzl

      I’m an opensource enthusiast and I feel microsoft has made some great strides in the opensource community. Have you seen codeplex? Microsoft has also made some commits to the linux kernel.