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Why Microsoft Azure?

Mitch Wagner

SAN FRANCISCO -- Structure 2016 -- Unless you're scrutinizing hypercloud providers with a microscope, they look the same: Massive data centers located all around the world, on which businesses can run... whatever they want. Given those similarities, why should a user choose Microsoft Azure over, say, Amazon Web Services?

The answer: Azure is specialized for enterprise needs, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Cloud and Enterprise Group, said in a presentation here on Tuesday.

Microsoft has global presence, with 38 cloud regions around the world, more than Amazon Web Services Inc. and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) combined, Guthrie said.

Microsoft Man
Microsoft's Scott Guthrie talks cloud with Fortune's Barb Darrow.
Microsoft's Scott Guthrie talks cloud with Fortune's Barb Darrow.

It's trusted, providing security and more compliance certifications than any other cloud vendor, Guthrie said.

And it provides hybrid connectivity to use Azure in conjunction with other clouds and on-premises cloud, he said.

About 90% of the Fortune 500 is running production software on Azure, Guthrie said. And software vendors that target the enterprise are running their cloud applications on Azure, including Adobe, SAP and DocuSign.

As part of Azure's hybrid capabilities, Microsoft this week announced support for Kubernetes orchestration, in addition to previously supported Mesosphere DCOS and Docker Swarm. That allows users to deploy applications that use containers in whatever framework they prefer, and scale and manage them. Amazon and Google have their own preferred orchestration tools; "our point of view is let's support all of them," Guthrie said. And as new orchestration technologies emerge, Microsoft will support those too.

One of Azure's strengths is it allows enterprises to extend their existing Microsoft software infrastructure and expertise into the cloud, Guthrie said. But Azure isn't just for Windows. Azure supports Linux, and more Linux VMs are being created on Azure than Windows Server VMs; the percentage of non-Windows non-Microsoft workflows is increasing.

"We don't want to be the cloud for Microsoft workflows or Windows server workflows. We want to be the cloud for every workflow," Guthrie said.

Microsoft's focus on security and compliance helps it appeal to enterprises in general, and regulated industries in particular, he said.

"In regulated industries, no one wants to be first and no one wants to be last," Guthrie said.

French bank Societe Generale signed on to Azure in May; it was the first globally systematically important financial institution (GSIFI - pronounced "gee siffy") to go to the cloud. GSIFIS are the biggest banks in the world, regulated both nationally and internationally, Guthrie said. Now, over 75% of the large banks around the world are Azure customers, and government, public sector, military and every sector is now adopting cloud.

Hybrid cloud is driving demand for Azure, Guthrie said. Organizations more than five years old have a huge infrastructure investment they can't afford to rip and replace "whether they like it or not," Guthrie said. Microsoft is already in data centers with its technology; for example, 94% of identity systems use Microsoft Active Directory. Hybrid cloud connects infrastructure, data, identity, security management, business and productivity apps across premises and the public cloud, and Microsoft has software at all those layers, which can run in Azure, on-premises or other environments.

Are you a service provider executive who wants to learn more about the impact of web-scale competition on the communications sector? Join us for Light Reading's third annual 2020 Vision Executive Summit taking place in Rome, December 6-8. Contact our events team to find out if you qualify for a VIP pass.

Microsoft needs to differentiate; it trails far behind leader Amazon Web Services Inc. in market share. According to recent market research, AWS has well more than half the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) market, more than Microsoft, IBM and Google combined. (See Amazon Bigger in IaaS Cloud Than Microsoft, Google & IBM Combined.)

Of the major IaaS providers, Microsoft and IBM are both specializing in the enterprise hybrid cloud market, with IBM focused on delivering cognitive computing through its Watson cloud service.

Google's differentiator isn't 100% clear. However, Urs Hölzle, Google's senior vice president for technical infrastructure, hinted at a possibility in a presentation prior to Microsoft's: Delivering specialized, high-performance cloud services as Moore's Law returns slow and performance becomes more valuable. (See Google's Hölzle: Moore's Law Slowdown Drives Cloud Demand.)

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— Mitch Wagner, Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor, Light Reading Enterprise Cloud

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