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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

What is Microsoft’s container strategy? I know there are Windows containers but Azure has also embraced Docker and Kubernetes. Is Microsoft at somewhat of a disadvantage here because containers are primarily a Linux-focused technology?

Actually, from a computer science perspective, containers have been around for two decades. It goes all the way back to operating systems and isolation levels. As a technology, containers have been a mechanism for a very long time and we started supporting containers on the Azure platform along with our deep learning stuff over two years ago.

We’ve been a deep investor in Docker projects to help make that even easier and we’re one of the biggest contributors on the open source side of Docker. Internally, we’ve been using container technology for Microsoft products for probably the better part of five years. What we’ve done most recently is take that same technology and made it a first-class part of the Windows Operating System. That is something we’re bringing to market with Windows Server 2016.

From that perspective, Azure has provided containers for Linux for two years. We’ve given container support for Windows itself and the orchestrators. The other thing I’d say is we’re basically an open platform and so from that perspective we’re supporting all workloads whether they’re Linux or Windows, open source or not, take your pick, it doesn’t really matter. At this point I feel like we’re uniquely positioned to bridge those Linux and Windows ecosystems.

You mentioned some higher-level technology services like machine learning and artificial intelligence. There is also talk of technology like serverless computing, which I know you address with Azure Functions. What would you say to customers who may struggle with rolling out these new technologies? Do you see a lot of demand at this point?

Yes, absolutely. Think about this in a larger context: We believe going forward that every company is a software company, even if you’re in a more traditional environment, such as manufacturing for example. Even if I’m not a traditional software company, I will be going forward because the best way to get the most out of my business, to optimize it, to save costs and to open new markets is to leverage data and software to help with that next run of innovation.

We’re seeing a lot of that kind of work happening. The top-level thing we’re trying to do is democratize that technology and make it more accessible not only to developers who build software but also those customers that want to get insights. We’ve got a very comprehensive solution that starts all the way down with developers and APIs in hardware and goes all the way up into things like Power BI and Excel. We offer ways to leverage that same kind of technology but you don’t have to be a software or data scientist to be able to do it. If you think about it in those terms then I absolutely expect broad adoption. This is also part of other things that we see, like Bots-as-a-Service and intelligent agents like Cortana. All those things are elements that we’re going to experience in our day-to-day lives.

 

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