While I was at BlackBerry’s Security Summit, I spent some time at the Microsoft Azure booth. I don’t think we fully get what makes Microsoft very different from Amazon and Google at the moment. At scale, it is likely the only company offering a cloud solution that is truly robust enough to be trusted in what has become an incredibly unsafe world.
Let’s chat about what makes Azure very different from what Amazon and Google offer.
Both Google and Amazon are tightly focused on the user. Yes, they sell to enterprises, but the smaller the company, the more sense they make. Amazon has clearly made progress in addressing a number of enterprise concerns, but many partners will readily admit that Google just doesn’t “get” the enterprise. This is so widely shared, I doubt it is any surprise to you.
But Microsoft, like IBM, EMC, and Oracle, is focused like a laser on the enterprise market. That may have hurt it a bit with PCs, but Microsoft can speak the language and has had viable enterprise solutions for over a decade longer than Amazon or Google has even been attempting this.
More Data Centers
Currently, Microsoft has more data centers in more regions than Amazon and Google combined. It’s cheaper to build huge central data centers but in the event of a major natural disaster or network outage, you’re pretty much screwed if one of them goes down. By distributing data centers, Microsoft is far more capable of recovering or mitigating an outage than its two large primary competitors.
As we watched Southwest Airlines’ troubles this week, we saw that the ability to mitigate an outage can literally be the difference between an enterprise being in or out of business. Granted, the Southwest example was a different kind of outage, but it showcases the kind of problem that can happen if a centralized data center drops off the network grid.
Small companies and new companies can pretty much put everything into the cloud now, likely because they, as yet, don’t fully understand the related risks. Most smart enterprises can’t do that. Too many policies that won’t conform to a cloud deployment and a critical need to maintain absolute control over data and apps force enterprises to opt for an on-premise solution. In addition, hybrid cloud solutions are becoming more and more popular as a way to allow for peak loading or to have a more balanced approach to the needs of the enterprise.
Right now, only Microsoft, in this class, allows for an on-premises Azure option. Given the on-premises solution and cloud solution are from the same family, providing a hybrid alternative is relatively easy. Clearly this isn’t at all critical for smaller firms, but for an enterprise that wants to create a hybrid alternative to the otherwise binary choice of cloud or on-premises, it introduces a number of additional problems.
BlackBerry Trusts It
BlackBerry’s defining differentiators are its focus on security, privacy, and reliability in communications. BlackBerry would not trust a platform that wasn’t enterprise-ready and both secure and reliable enough to meet its needs. Allowing Azure to host its servers is a huge vote of confidence for the solution. The solution could also allow IT to turn over license management to Microsoft and pay for software licenses on one invoice and have someone else manage that mess. I was told you’d actually save a significant amount of money doing this, but the Microsoft folks were a tad short on concrete examples. Still, making it a ton easier would be compelling.
Wrapping Up: Microsoft Is Really a Very Different Company
The old Microsoft that focused on operating systems and tools wouldn’t have been caught dead at a BlackBerry event. The new Microsoft was there financially supporting it. As Microsoft’s financials showcase, it’s more and more a software and cloud services company. That means we will likely see it in even more unusual places. I walked away from that conversation at the Azure booth thinking that Microsoft wasn’t a cloud solutions provider, it was the cloud solutions provider. Yet another relatively brilliant move by its new CEO, which showcases why every company should be run by someone who knows both the related technology and the market it resides in.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+.