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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.

IDGNS: How did you get involved in Azure ?
Russinovich: I started at Microsoft in 2006 when my company was purchased, and I worked at the tail-end of Vista, and Windows 7. As Windows 7 was finished, and we were starting to work on Windows 8, I was looking around to do something different.

Some of this was spurred on by some of the people who started the Azure project, including one of my heroes, Dave Cutler, the guy who created Windows NT.

He started the Azure project right as I joined the Windows team, which was disappointing to me that he took off to go work on this. I was looking at his project and thinking "Yeah, knock yourself out over there, I'm still working on the cool stuff over here at Windows."

A few years later, I talked with him, talked with [then Microsoft chief architect] Ray Ozzie, and I started to take a step back. I saw the transition that the industry has going through. I was helping Microsoft get ahead of the mobile transition from desktop oriented computing. But I realized there is another side to that mobile disruption, which was the cloud part of it. All of those devices communicate with each other and store data in a central location. That made me realize that the cloud was probably way bigger and way more disruptive than even mobile.

The infrastructure, the software systems, and the application models for the cloud barely existed then. How do we operate at that scale? How do people write applications that operate at that scale? How do you develop an application that would work across the globe? This is like a brand new OS. I realized then Azure was the foundation for the future of Microsoft.

IDGNS: How will the job change for the system administrator whose workload is moving to the cloud?
Russinovich: If you look at what enterprises are doing in the cloud, they are really only getting started. As much as capacity has been built out, it is just the tip of the iceberg.

If an IT pro doesn't want to be left on the sidelines, they need to figure out how to help their companies get to the cloud.

Shadow IT -- I call it "bring-your-own-IT" -- is just the business going around the central IT because the cloud is much more agile.

So if the central IT guys don't want to be left behind managing the on-premise stuff, they have to figure out how to get in the position of helping their businesses get to the cloud. That means understanding the cost model of the cloud, the security model of the cloud, how to put in governance so people are doing the right thing, and making it so that business departments are incentivized to have you help them, rather than go around you as an impediment.


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