Q&A: Microsoft's Bob Muglia details cloud strategy

In an interview, the president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Division explains what firms should do now to prep for a move to the cloud

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IDG: So it's not all on top of .Net?

Muglia: No, Windows Azure is language agnostic completely and the services can be built using any language. And then, of course, we're writing a set of services and those services expose Web services or REST protocols, so they actually can be consumed by any language. But then, of course, we provide a .Net platform that's a very sophisticated platform for people who want to build using Microsoft tools.

IDG: Just one other really quick follow-up about Azure appliance. Was there a resistance to a public cloud offering that you've now overcome by turning it into an appliance?

Muglia: There are definitely customers that want to run it themselves, in their own data centers. If you're a hoster, obviously, you want to run it yourself or a service provider. Obviously, you can't get the scale we can, providing tens of thousands of servers within our own environment that are available for use. You may not be able to get the geolocation either, where we have data centers in every region around the world. But for some customers, that's not what they care about.

IDG: But you can provide a gateway to that through the applicance....

Muglia: You can. And, in fact, what we can do is allow bursting capabilities so they can move onto that as they might need.

IDG: When customers or people in the industry talk about Microsoft today, what drives you crazy?

Muglia: The thing that drives me nuts is when people say Microsoft is not innovative. Look at the innovations that the company has delivered to the marketplace in the 23 years that I've been at this company. Every single thing about Office was innovative at the time that people first saw it. We've seen so many changes in the way people work and live because of things that Microsoft has done -- the work that we did around Windows and Windows NT in the early days, that transformation. Microsoft transformed the whole industry with the way we made it horizontal and the industry had been always verticalized. It became horizontal because of the general-purpose systems we had and a whole ecosystem emerged.

Look at what we're doing today, work like Windows Azure, the work we're doing with our online services, the work we're seeing in places like Bing where we're really coming after a company like Google and really putting Google on its heels a bit and forcing them to respond now to us, the work that we see in Xbox and Connect and what that's going to do. Any company that is looking broadly at a wide variety of different things has successes and some failures. Frankly, any company that's been around for a while has plenty of failures in their history. But the level of successes and the things that Microsoft has done to transform the industry is pretty amazing.

The other thing that I think is really important about us is we are not about the elite. You sit in California or anyplace really in the United States, and you can get yourself very confused about the way the world is.

Different countries around the world aren't as fortunate as we are and we are very much about solving problems for everybody, not just a few people. Our stuff isn't high priced, specialized. It's available broadly. Microsoft is having an impact in transforming the lives of hundreds of millions of people, really you could say a couple of billion people around the world.

Something that really excites me is work we're doing right now in areas like the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and a few other places, where the ratio of PCs to students is unbelievably low, like one PC to 25,000 students. We have a server called MultiPoint, where for just a few hundred dollars we can put a server in a classroom with four or six terminals attached to it. All of a sudden, kids in that classroom in some remote island in the Philippines have access to the Internet and the world that we've all lived with but they've never had. That's the kind of thing Microsoft does, and sometimes people forget that.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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