SiliconANGLE Interview With Microsoft’s new CEO on Modern Infrastructure

SiliconANGLE founder John Furrier broke the news that Microsoft has chosen Satya Nadella as its third CEO last Friday, exactly ten months to the day the veteran executive appeared on theCUBE at the Accel Partners Symposium to share his vision for the modern enterprise. Nadella, who headed the software giant’s lucrative Servers and Tools division, told Wikibon Principal Research Contributor Jeff Kelly that IT in large, complex organizations is undergoing a tectonic shift as infrastructure and business applications are re-imagined by vendors like Microsoft. The firm provides a diverse set of solutions for both consumers and enterprises, he details, including Bing, Office 365, Dynamics and others.

To support its broad portfolio, Microsoft had to fundamentally rethink data center design, embrace hyperscale and embark on a journey to build what Nadella conceptualizes as an operating system for the cloud. This platform encompasses four different dimensions, first and foremost, software-led infrastructure.

Nadella explains that decoupling the control plane from the underlying hardware enables a “software-driven data center where you’re orchestrating your compute, storage and network in support of your applications if they’re at the data center or multi-data center scale.” The ability to rapidly provision workloads at scale has become a necessity now that “there’s not a single enterprise that’s not using some public cloud provide or another service provider in addition to what they’re already virtualizing inside their own private cloud,” he elaborates.

The second trend Microsoft is trying to address is the consumerization of IT, which manifests itself in BYOD. Nadella says that organizations today face the challenge of “transforming IT to be much more people-centric,” allowing employees to use their own devices at work while sustaining a balance between user experience and governance.

The two other pillars of the modern enterprise according to Nadella are Big Data, which he predicts will transform application development, and the equally disruptive movement known as DevOps. The concept is founded on the proposition of “developers and operations professionals coming together in support of ongoing improvement and continuous integration,” as he describes it.

On cloud interoperability


In the cloud era, IT is not as “narrowly defined as ‘bring everything into my data center and I’ll help you manage it,’” the executive remarks. “But it is actually distributed, I think of this as the true fruition of distributed computing, and we [Microsoft] believe in that.” The key to delivering on the promise of the cloud is effective identity management – the ability to keep track of users and resources throughout an environment.

Another requirement is having the freedom to seamlessly move virtualized workloads from one cloud to another, a feature Microsoft offers with Hyper-V and Windows Azure. The resulting interoperability lets organizations avoid project lock-in, but achieving the degree infrastructure consistency needed to pull it all off is much easier said than done. Nadella says that the new paradigm of enterprise computing necessities a centralized orchestration layer that provides the flexibility needed to manage apps across data centers.

How Big Data fits in


“This notion of being able to take data and convert it into insights in support of enterprise goals is the holy grail of this movement,” Nadella says, and Microsoft is taking a multi-pronged approach in pursuing it. The firm is integrating its already well-established business intelligence solutions, namely including Excel, Sharepoint and SQL Services, with technologies such as Hadoop as part of an effort to make data insights more accessible to decision makers.

“At the end of the day humans will be involved to be able to drive insights out of all of this data, so the question is how we take that edge loop and connect it with the information production which is upstream,” Nadella tells Kelly. “That is where we’re completing the story with having HDInsight, having a relational interface on top of HDInsight for in-memory, ad hoc, query analysis like a data warehouse on top of it.”

Looking over the horizon


Asked about his objectives for the near future, the executive reveals that he intends to double down on Microsoft’s cloud business, which has already reached a multibillion-dollar run rate. Nadella will no doubt continue to focus on this market as CEO as he works to position the company at the top of the enterprise IT food chain.