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Why Azure’s cloud chief believes Microsoft is in prime position

Brandon Butler | Dec. 13, 2016
Jason Zander is corporate VP at Microsoft overseeing Azure sales and engineering

In Satya Nadella’s first press conference as CEO of Microsoft in 2014, he laid out a vision for the company to be a mobile-first, cloud-first company.

On the cloud side, Microsoft has a broad portfolio of products that includes market-leading SaaS productivity applications, highlighted by Office 365. On the IaaS and PaaS side, Microsoft has Azure, a public cloud that has turned into one of the most prominent cloud platforms in the market and is considered the chief rival to market-leading Amazon Web Services’ public IaaS cloud.

Jason Zander 
Jason Zander, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Azure

Jason Zander is Microsoft Azure’s corporate vice president, which means he oversees thousands of engineers who develop Microsoft’s IaaS and PaaS platform, operate its global data centers and manage its customer support group. Zander’s been at the company since 1992 and previously held positions developing Windows, Microsoft databases and more recently the Visual Studio and .NET teams. In this conversation, Network World Senior Editor Brandon Butler speaks to Zander about the state of the cloud market and Azure’s future direction.

Amazon created the public Infrastructure-as-a-Service cloud market in the mid-2000s and for years they seemed to be the only real vendor. To this day most analysts believe that AWS has a multiyear lead in terms of features and scale of its cloud compared to competitors like Microsoft, Google and IBM. Do you think Amazon’s head start on this market complicated Microsoft’s ability to compete in the public cloud?

What I would say is that we’ve been an enterprise player basically for 20 years now. We are a company that has been very involved in the data center and the software used to run data centers historically. We’re also a company that offers technology at multiple levels. For example, if you think about it we have not only the infrastructure components but we were also a very early leader in Platform-as-a-Service and then up through the SaaS layer for things like Office 365 and Dynamics 365. I would say that our longstanding enterprise strength and the comprehensive nature of the solution that we’re offering is actually super important to us and we think that it’s been resonating really well with our customers.

You mentioned operating at different layers of the stack, including IaaS, SaaS and PaaS. How much do Microsoft Enterprise applications like Office and Office 365 drive Azure sales? I’ve heard reports that Microsoft gives away free Azure credits with Office 365 Enterprise agreements. Is that true and does that still happen today?

Having Office 365 out there and pioneering in that space, that certainly paves the way for additional wins. A great example of this is that when you’re using Office 365, you’re also using Azure Active Directory to track all your user IDs. It turns out that Azure Active Directory is also a great way to integrate the rest of your enterprise applications. Once I get going, it becomes easier and easier to start taking some of my new line of business work and now I’ve got that comprehensive solution.


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