Microsoft Butters Up Land O'Lakes, Lands Boeing, Friends Facebook

Microsoft inks high-profile cloud deals with three very different companies.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

July 20, 2016

4 Min Read
Microsoft Butters Up Land O'Lakes, Lands Boeing, Friends Facebook

Microsoft scored cloud wins with two major companies this week, landing deals with agribusiness Land O'Lakes -- previously a marquee customer for Google -- as well as Boeing. That follows an Office 365 deal that Microsoft landed with Facebook last week.

Land O'Lakes is probably best known to most people as a butter brand, but it's a $13 billion agricultural business that includes agricultural technology for farmers -- proprietary and third-party applications to optimize production. The company is migrating its WinField "R7" application to Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Azure. R7 provides agronomic research, weather information and satellite data on mobile devices for farmers and consultants who work with farmers, to make planting decisions and react to real-time changes, says Michael Macrie, Land O'Lakes SVP and CIO, in a post on the Microsoft blog.

Land O'Lakes' business includes its dairy foods operations as well as Purina animal feed and the WinField line of crop "inputs," such as seeds and nutrition. The cooperative has more than 4,000 member-owners, including dairy producers and agricultural retailers operating in thousands of locations across the US, with about 300,000 farmers in their system.

In addition to R7, Land O'Lakes' Purina business is combining more than 70 years of proprietary feed research data with new Internet of Things sensor measurements and Microsoft Cortana Analytics Suite, to reduce the time to bring new products to market. And the company's dairy business is looking to leverage big data and predictive analytics to optimize the production of products, including butter, cheese and milk, to increase member farmers' profits.

Additionally, Land O'Lakes is using Office 365 and Surface tablets for employees and co-op members. "It's hard to imagine a more mobile workforce than farmers, and now they can analyze data and plan together with our reps, all while standing in the middle of a field," Macrie said.

In May, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) bragged that Land O'Lakes was using its cloud platform to build the WinField Data Silo to help farmers make data-driven decisions.

Separately, Microsoft also announced Monday that it's partnering with Boeing to offer the aviation company's analytics tools on Azure. Boeing and its subsidiaries AerData and Jeppesen offer tools used by more than 300 airlines to optimize operating efficiency. Its applications are also used by airplane leasing companies and maintenance suppliers, providing real-time information to enhance purchasing and leasing airplanes and engines, training and scheduling crews, route planning, managing inventory and maintaining fleets. (See Boeing & Microsoft Building Cloud-Based Aviation Analytics.)

The applications reduce crew scheduling costs up to 7% and save hundreds of pounds of fuel on every flight.

In an earnings call Tuesday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said deals like the one with Boeing will become more common, as Microsoft's enterprise cloud customers redeploy internal, proprietary software as a service for other companies, transitioning from Microsoft customers to Microsoft partners. (See Microsoft: Every Cloud Customer a Potential Software Partner.)

And last week, Facebook said it's using Office 365 as a collaboration tool for its 13,000 employees. In a post on the Office blog, Facebook CIO Tim Campos said the company is using Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as Delve, for information on how employees work with each other, such as who collaborates with whom the most.

Want to know more about the cloud? Visit Light Reading Enterprise Cloud.

While Facebook employees will use Office 365 for email and calendar, they won't have access to Yammer, which is Microsoft's workplace social network, or Skype for Business, which competes directly with Facebook's own services, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Facebook has its own collaboration service, Facebook at Work, and the two are complementary, Campos told the Journal.

Also last week, Microsoft signed a deal with General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) on Internet of Things cloud services. (See Microsoft Boosts Azure Container Support.)

And last month, Microsoft signed a deal with a Los Angeles startup to provide cloud services to help governments ensure marijuana businesses are compliant. (See Microsoft Gets Baked in Cannabis Cloud.)

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

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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