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Q&A: Meet Microsoft's new Azure CTO, Mark Russinovich

Joab Jackson | Oct. 1, 2014
Earlier this month, Microsoft quietly appointed software architect Mark Russinovich as chief technology officer for its Azure cloud computing platform, formalizing a role he's been executing for the past several years.

Earlier this month, Microsoft quietly appointed software architect Mark Russinovich as chief technology officer for its Azure cloud computing platform, formalizing a role he's been executing for the past several years.

It was a smart appointment not the least because it may help ease any remaining concerns of system administrators reluctant to take on Microsoft's cloud platform as part of their job duties. Among the Microsoft faithful, Russinovich has serious geek credibility. If Russinovich is behind the gears at Azure, it must be O.K.

Russinovich has long been one of the most popular speakers at Microsoft's Build and TechEd technical conferences, thanks to his clear, cogent explanations of the company's technologies. Russinovich joined the company in 2006, after Microsoft purchased his enterprise software company, Winternals Software, which offered a line of Windows repair tools that many found superior to Microsoft's own.

Joining Microsoft led Russinovich to shift his ardent concentration from Windows to the company's then-emerging cloud practice, Azure, which is now becoming a cornerstone in the company's business strategy. Russinovich has experienced Azure's growing pains first-hand, and has spoke about them candidly, and in depth.

One high-profile growing pain happened in February 2013, when Azure blinked offline due to an expired digital security certificate. The company had updated the certificate but failed to install it on the servers in time, given that it was part of larger update patch that got pushed back at the last minute.

The incident was an eye-opener for the company. "With services, it's about the whole lifecycle. You have to think end-to-end when you are dealing with processes," Russinovich said during his talk at the latest Build conference in April.

The IDG News Service sat down with Russinovich to learn more about the how Azure is reshaping the way the company operates.

IDGNS: Why is running a cloud service different from shipping software products?
Russinovich: It's a very different mindset. With the box-product development cycle, the planners plan it up front and hand off the plans to developers, to develop it. Once they feel they have something stable, then they hand it off to the testers, who test it for a while. You might have customers test it in beta, and once you decide it looks good, you ship it out to the outside world. The customers get it, operate it, report bugs back to you. Typically you have a separate team -- we do at Microsoft -- who takes a look at the bugs, fixes them and rolls out updates to the customers.

That's the traditional process, and many Microsoft products teams are totally designed around that. You have these very different kinds of skillsets for each phase -- product planners, developers, testers.

 

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