Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

Summary: What has Microsoft's Scott Guthrie done over the past six months in his new job as head of the Azure Application Platform?

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One of the first things Microsoft Corporate Vice President Scott Guthrie did when he moved to the Azure team was to hold an offsite. He asked his team members to try building an Azure app using Microsoft's existing tools, software development kits and guidance. The majority (about three quarters of the attendees, according to one version of this anecdote I heard) took way too long to do so.

To put it mildly, this wasn't a good thing for Microsoft's platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering, its Windows in the cloud for which the company was encouraging developers to develop apps. That's why over the past six months, there have been a stream of improvements around Azure's programming tools, in terms of their features, their licensing, their discoverability and supporting documentation and information. (Earlier this month, Guthrie and other Microsoft execs held a day-long Webcast all about Azure.)

What else has Guthrie done since he moved from being the Corporate Vice President of the .Net platform in the Developer Division, to head the Azure Application Platform team in the Business Platform Division? I wasn't allowed to talk to Guthrie for this post (not too surprising, since Microsoft officials have pulled back on talking about Azure and its future this year). But others had plenty to share on some of the effects they believe Guthrie has had on Microsoft's cloud platform since his job switch was announced internally in May 2011.

At the time of the May Server and Tools reorg, Guthrie took with him to the Business Platform Division (BPD) his existing Web Platform & Tools team, the Application Server Group and added the Lightweight Role teams from inside the Windows Azure team. (BPD, headed by Corporate Vice President Ted Kummert, oversees SQL Server, SQL Azure, Windows Server and Azure AppFabric, Windows Communication Foundation and Windows Workflow Foundation. It mission is to create an integrated app platform consisting of database and app servers, cloud services, and data programability/modeling technologies.)

"Guthrie has been best known for his evangelism and focus on tools. I think we've seen that energy and attention paid to the Azure team since he took over," said  Richard Seroter, a BizTalk Most Valuable Professional (MVP) and principal architect for biotechnology company.

Eric Boyd, a Director for Centare who is responsible for their Chicago business and cloud computing practice, agreed.

"Over the years, Guthrie has made a significant impact in simplifying the developer experience with Microsoft development tools and platforms. He is bringing that legacy to developers using Windows Azure."

Boyd ticked off a list of improvements he has seen come to Azure since Guthrie moved into his new role. He said Microsoft has simplified the startup experience for developers new to Azure. The release of the Windows Azure 1.6 software development kit (SDK) now allows developers to publish apps to Windows Azure without leaving Visual Studio to visit the Windows Azure Management Portal. Additionally, the various Windows Azure SDKs got bundled together into one download and install, so now more need to download the Windows Azure SDK and the Windows Azure AppFabric SDK separately.

Then there's the open-source angle. Azure already offered devs a choice of .Net, Java, PHP, Ruby and Python (with lesser degrees of functionality for the non-Microsoft-centric options). But recently, Microsoft also added support for other open-source frameworks and tools like node.js, Apache Hadoop and MongoDB, Boyd noted.

"Guthrie championed compatibility with non-Microsoft technologies in his previous role, such as with jQuery support in Visual Studio, and it is likely he is pushing such compatibility now for Azure," said Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based research outfit.

The other arena where some company watchers believe Guthrie to have a strong influence is around pricing. Microsoft has tweaked the pricing of Azure and its components several times this year. There's been some simplification on pricing around Azure AppFabric, as well.

Earlier this year, the charges for inbound bandwidth were eliminated and the cost of Windows Azure storage decreased, Boyd said. It was just announced that the maximum size of SQL Azure databases have tripled without any additional charges. And bandwidth charges in North America and Europe have been reduced by 25%, he noted.

Microsoft isn't the only company that wants to attract the .Net developer masses to its cloud platform, however. Two VMware partners just last week announced their strategies and offerings for bringing support for .Net to VMware's Cloud Foundry cloud development platform. And Amazon has been making more moves around improving the developer capabilities of its infrastructure-as-a-service cloud platform, giving it more PaaS-like capabilities.

"I'm interested in seeing Guthrie's response to the encroachment of others on his Visual-Studio-to-Azure domination," said Seroter. "Visual Studio has always been the gateway drug to Azure; if developers were invested in VS, the on ramp to Azure was shorter. But in the past six months we've seen Amazon embed rich tooling in VS that lets developers interact with a host of Amazon cloud services. Now, developers can also use Visual Studio to deploy full .NET apps to Cloud Foundry via Iron Foundry. How will Guthrie and team keep making Azure the de facto destination for .Net cloud apps?"

Sogeti USA National Cloud Solution Specialist and Azure MVP Brent Stineman had some questions of his own:

"We’ve seen few 'new' Azure features introduced in the last 12 months and much more focus on polishing and rounding out the products. As I understand it, this work is largely out of Guthrie’s responsibility. However, Guthrie’s influence can possibly be seen in the simplification of pricing and making the consumption of the various API’s even easier.

"The real question here is what will we see the next 6 or 12 months. As the existing gaps get plugged, will the covers be taken off of new features? What do they have in the pipeline that they aren’t talking about?"

Indeed. It also will be interesting to see if Guthrie and his team take the next step that some of Microsoft's customers are requesting and make Azure more like Amazon's EC2 platform by adding more infrastructure-as-a-service elements to it. There has been talk that Microsoft could make it simpler for customers to run Linux on Azure's compute fabric.

"I think the pace of additions, updates, and pricing tuning to Azure has been swift and with Guthrie at the helm, this should continue, helping keep Azure competitive with offerings from Amazon and Google, Sanfilippo said.

Current and potential Azure customers/developers: Do you agree? What else do you hope ScottGu and his merry band of app platform folks do in the coming six months to enhance and/or fix Azure?

Topics: Operating Systems, Apps, CXO, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Software, Software Development, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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19 comments
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  • FAIL

    Just like pretty much everything else Microsoft.
    itguy10
    • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

      @itguy10 - *sigh* You are a such a lost soul. Try again, this time bringing a bit more thought into the process.
      batpox
  • My Azure Report Card

    I am a computer programming hobbyist (I use VB.NET if you need any proof). I have been working on a program that uses as Azure SQL database. In my experience, it was extremely easy to integrate into my application. Everytime I work on the program, I am continuously amazed at the flexibility and potential that exists within the Azure cloud. I can only imagine what real programmers are up to right now and the different type of applications that will exist in the future. Exciting times.
    NativeFloridian
  • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

    Too much vendor lock-in. Easier to use services like Amazon's AWS, then its very easy to move between providers and prices and business circumstances change.
    Stephen.Smith@...
    • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

      @Stephen.Smith@... Nonsense.

      I can (and have) build an entire platform today using .NET, Java, Ruby, nodeJS, etc., standard web technologies, standard SQL and/or MongoDB and can publish the entire thing, from scratch, up to Azure in less than an hour.

      However, I'm not necessarily leveraging the power and benefits of the platform. As soon as you take a dependency on ANY platform-specific feature, you're coupling yourself to that platform to some degree. To what degree you couple your system to a given platform is a decision you'll have to weigh up vis a vis the benefits those platform specific features provide.
      bitcrazed
  • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

    I think Ray Ozzie and Microsoft did a poor job communicating Azure to the development community. Scottgu is more well known and respected as a peer hands-on developer guru. His background in developer tools is going to make it easier for .Net developers to leverage Azure, although this is not going to happen overnight. I'll look forward to seeing his 'scorecard' in December 2012!
    garry@...
    • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

      @garry@...
      I agree, and I hope Scott will also help Microsoft not only leverage the Azure platform, but provide more information to developers on what is coming down the road in the next year or two. I hope Scott sends someone to a small company with a 5 man IT staff (and you will have to go to them, since they cannot afford the $$ gatherings) to ask them what their development needs are.
      batpox
    • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

      @garry@...
      As a .net developer I totally agree. The message from MS is confusing regarding azure. Its obvious they want us to use it badly but all the free tools and azure accounts they offered, most didn't even know about. I have a lot of work to do all the time and don't have time to figure out if something on azure is going to be easy to implement. Maybe more relevant workshops are in order...maybe they already do but I don't hear about them. Some I find by accident through msdn.
      rengek
      • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

        @rengek I work at Microsoft devlivering those workshops for Windows Azure on the east coast. We just wrapped up a series this past month, but check out http://www.devcamps.ms for info future ones.
        jrzyshr
  • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

    As pointed out above, what TheGu has done in the last 6 months (and is not yet finished with, I believe), is dramatically simplify the dev tooling & deployment process for building Azure-based systems. This was absolutely necessary because while not quite rocket science, it was a formidable and unnecessary hurdle to those new to the platform.

    What Microsoft has demonstrated in moving TheGu to own the Azure dev platform is a very clear focus on making Azure THE default cloud platform for Microsoft developers. The fact that he now owns all intranet, web and cloud-based app platform and tooling concerns is a great thing because (finally), the teams building these products can build a comprehensive, coherent platform and tooling story rather than the previous collection of disconnected, partially-disassociative tools and technologies.

    What I believe Microsoft now needs to do is to work on a plan to lower the cost of simple web app hosting - $99 per month (+storage & bandwidth) for a single standard web role instance is too high. If they were to make the standard web role 2 instances for less money (essential in Azure since instances can be rebooted at any time without warning, necessitating at least 2 instances for 24x7x365 uptime), then they'd be onto a winner.
    bitcrazed
    • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

      @bitcrazed I agree - for a small business like mine $99/month is too much, and I end up using ASP.NET hosting elsewhere when I'd rather be in the cloud. $30 per month would be ideal, and then as my business grows so to will my need for additional services, so it would be handy to be in Azure.
      RobertMcCarter
      • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

        @RobertMcCarter - Can't justify 99 bucks a month as an MS supporter but 30 bucks is ok? Please, even the smallest business can afford 99 bucks a month. You just want to give MS 30 bucks a month as a MS nerd. Nothing to do with your business.
        The Danger is Microsoft
      • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

        @RobertMcCarter - I just found this very helpful website:
        http://www.windowsazure.com/
        and according to this pricing calculator I can deploy an extra-small instance for just $30/month. cool...
        RobertMcCarter
      • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

        @RobertMcCarter - Extra small instances really are extra small. If you don't expect much traffic and don't require much in terms of CPU horsepower, then you may be able to get away with an extra small instance.

        There are a wide variety of ASP.NET hosting companies offering packages ranging from $2.99 a month for basic shared hosting to $100 a month for dedicated servers. (http://www.microsoft.com/web/hosting/home)

        There are pro's and con's for both cloud and web hosting solutions though, so understand your requirements and analyze what best suits your needs.
        bitcrazed
      • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

        @Danger. Grow up.
        bitcrazed
  • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

    I'm a professional developer, and while the names of Amazon's services roll off my tongue - Cloudfront, S3, EC2, etc - I can't name any of Azure's. I got a phone call from somebody at Microsoft a few months ago asking about my use of Azure, and I asked if it had a CDN - she didn't know! While I get e-mails from Amazon frequently about new features, the Microsoft e-mails are much more general and much less focused on the new feature or new pricing. Maybe I'm on the wrong mailing list, but I haven't found better.<br><br>I really like Microsoft's developer products - I think they're amazing, well thought out and the focus on developer productivity is great. But I really think Microsoft's biggest problem is communication - around Azure, Windows 8, Silverlight, WP7. (their WP7 campaigns have been especially strange and ineffectual - insulting people that like to use their phones a lot...)<br><br>As an MSDN Premium subscriber I know I get free Azure time, and I still find myself using Amazon just because the communication is cleaner, which means that I understand it better, and because the GUI seems much easier.
    RobertMcCarter
    • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

      @RobertMcCarter We did a bunch of work this round to simplify our web expereince for self discovery. Check out http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/home/tour/cdn/ for information on our CDN -- and many of the other great services that Windows Azure provides.

      Hope this helps.

      -Brian Goldfarb (@bgoldy)
      Director, Windows Azure Technical Product Management
      bgoldy
  • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

    you can thank microsoft because now windows is dead windows is the worst one made now it sucks we do not like live windows at all so i will not be getting windows 8 at all it SUCKS
    ttx19
  • RE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie and his impact on Azure: A six month report card

    Doubtless Scott is working his magic, or trying to, on Azure. I just hope it's not at the expense of other things that have been benefitting from his guidance in the past. And I'm waiting for Microsoft to realize they've got to have a completely, permanently free option for developers. Go ahead and throttle bandwith and capacity down to next to nothing, but there just shouldn't be anything like a time-limited introductory subscription; it has to be impossible for a developer learning Azure to accidentally incur any sort of charge, including if said developer feels like taking the next three to fifteen years experimenting with and learning Azure, and furthermore, that means the full-blown featureset including SQL Azure and AppFabric. Microsoft just can't be charging developers to learn this thing if they want to win hearts and minds (in my opinion).
    EricTN