Microsoft to shuffle the Windows Azure deck chairs (again)?

Summary:Microsoft is expected to announce yet another reorganization, maybe as soon as the week of May 1, that the company is hoping will help boost the sales of its Windows Azure cloud-computing platform.

Microsoft is expected to announce yet another reorganization, maybe as soon as the week of May 1, that the company is hoping will help boost the sales of its Windows Azure cloud-computing platform.

I'm hearing from my contacts that Scott Guthrie, currently Corporate Vice President of the .Net Platform, may be moving to the Windows Azure team, as part of the shake-up.

Does this mean Microsoft is hoping to better capitalize on its .Net tooling story around Azure -- the way that rival VMWare is doing with Spring/Cloud Foundry? What does the shift mean for Silverlight, given that Guthrie currently leads the Silverlight development team -- a team that has been is in flux, in terms of strategy/positioning, as of late?

Nobody from Microsoft will say anything beyond "no comment." Microsoft is reporting its Q3 FY'11 earnings on Thursday April 28, so the company is in a "quiet period" and not answering questions on any forward-looking kinds of things.

There have been all kinds of ongoing rumors about a much more sweeping reorganization that would affect Microsoft's Server and Tools Business (STB). STB is the division responsible for Windows Server, Windows Azure, Visual Studio, SQL Server, System Center and Forefront security products, Regarding the coming reorg, I had heard talk that CEO Steve Ballmer might go so far as to take direct reporting control of Visual Studio -- as he has done in the past with Windows and Windows Phone. But I'm now hearing that isn't likely to happen.

Microsoft has been seeking the right way to balance Windows Server and Windows Azure for the past couple of years. In December 2009, Microsoft moved the Azure team into the STB, creating a joint Server and Cloud business unit. That unit was headed by Amitabh Srivastava, who eneded up leaving Microsoft in March 2011, after he didn't get the job of STB President. The STB presidency spot was open as a result of current STB chief Bob Muglia's decision to leave the company as of this summer. There was talk when Muglia left that Ballmer was unhappy with the speed at which STB was moving customers to the cloud.

The new STB chief is Satya Nadella, the former head of Microsoft's Online Systems business. When Nadella was appointed as STB President earlier this year, Microsoft officials said that Corporate Vice President Bill Laing would be the interim head of the combined Server and Cloud business.

Microsoft has attempting to play up its ability to provide software and services for customers interested in the public cloud, the private cloud and a hybrid of the two. But some of the promised components of its strategy have gone missing -- like the Windows Azure Appliances (private cloud in a box) unveiled a year ago. (Microsoft execs have said they will provide an update on the appliances at the TechEd '11 conference in mid-May.) Some company watchers and partners with whom I've talked consider Microsoft's cloud strategy to be confusing and not well articulated.

Microsoft also has come under criticism for not offering more of a pure infrastructure-as-a-service play, akin to Amazon's EC2, to customers who don't want the full Windows Azure operating-system stack in the cloud. Microsoft created new "Extra Small Instance" for Azure users in response, but many still prefer more of a hosting approach like what Amazon offers.

Microsoft officials said in February 2011 that there are 31,000 Windows Azure customers, but declined to specify how many of these are paying customers, and how many are Microsoft employees.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Windows


Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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