Will cloudies take over at Microsoft?

Will cloudies take over at Microsoft?

Summary: Two experienced cloud advocates are in the running to take over leadership of Microsoft's Server and Tools division after Bob Muglia steps down, in the midst of rumors that a big shake-up is planned in Redmond.

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As the debate continues over who will make up the next leadership generation at Microsoft, I was intrigued to read the two names first on Mary Jo Foley's list yesterday of potential successors to Bob Muglia, the departing head of Servers and Tools:

"There are a number of in-house candidates that might be the kind of engineering-focused leader with a combination of cloud and server chops that Ballmer might opt to elevate if that's the direction he's leaning. I've mentioned Server and Cloud Senior Vice President Amitabh Srivastava as a possible presidential candidate. Others could include Microsoft Online Services Corporate Vice President Ron Markezich ..."

There are several pockets of true cloud savvy in Microsoft, and Srivastava and Markezich lead the two most important ones. I interviewed Srivastava in a two-part podcast shortly after the launch of Windows Azure, the project he has led since its inception under the codename Red Dog. I've had several briefing calls with Markezich, who's always been aggressive in his positioning of Online Services against its rivals Google and IBM's Lotus unit in the battle for your email.

Both these men lead teams that understand exactly how the cloud works. Azure, despite the best efforts of the Microsoft establishment to derail it into on-premise iterations, is a true cloud platform and has injected a huge amount of cloud savvy right into the heart of Microsoft's engineering corps. Microsoft Online Services is a cloud enclave in the business applications homeland, where both engineers and product managers understand that cloud isn't just a tactical deployment option, it's a strategic enterprise lifestyle choice. [Disclosure: I have a paid speaking engagement at a Microsoft Office365 event in Europe this April].

For all the brave talk we've heard that Microsoft is "all-in" the cloud, the political battles for hearts and minds within the organization are still raging between the old guard and the new wave. Seeing either of these men step into the top seat at the Server and Tools division would be a hugely meaningful signal that the 'cloudies' had finally won that struggle for dominance.

So which one will it be, if it's either of them? Srivastava comes across as the more laid-back of the two, but his engineering credentials are impeccable and he commands huge respect. He's the man to pick if the key battle still to fight is to win over the engineering and product teams. Markezich comes across as much more driven, and I've found him entertainingly outspoken in his sideswipes at rivals on the occasions we've met. Of course, that kind of talk can rebound on you, and although it makes for good copy, I always have some inner pangs of regret when an online provider crows about a competitor's outage, because it's only a matter of time before they'll have a #fail of their own. But Markezich's energy and the sales progress made by Online Services may be a better fit for CEO Steve Ballmer's personal style, and will favor him if winning over the sales and account management teams is what counts now (which I suspect is the case).

Whatever transpires, it surely couldn't have been mere coincidence that, while all this was going through my mind, last night I noticed Markezich had posted an item to the Why Microsoft? blog titled When Success is a Marathon, Not a Sprint. Amidst all the alleged succession machinations at Microsoft, it surely does no harm to his aspirations to remind a few people just now of his stamina, track record and enterprise cloud credentials. No doubt Srivastava is working equally hard in his own quiet way, but Markezich has made his determination and ambition very public:

"Any serious athlete will tell you that champions are made when no one is watching. When the noise dies down and the crowds thin out, all that's left is your will to win and the long stretch of road ahead. That is the time I like best. Time to listen. Time to focus. Time to work hard. And time to run."

Topics: CXO, Hardware, Microsoft, Servers

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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16 comments
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  • Microsoft keeps coming in second ....

    They keep coming in second, or second runner-up it seems to be, because of the alliances between the two parties, there is an inevitable success for both of them.
    crcgraphix
    • RE: Will cloudies take over at Microsoft?

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  • RE: Will cloudies take over at Microsoft?

    Clouds suck
    Fletchguy
  • RE: Will cloudies take over at Microsoft?

    Only if Microsoft become suicidal. PC growth may have ended, but they are not going away anytime soon.
    hayneiii@...
  • These are not the droids you seek

    "These are not the clouds you seek," Obiwan says with a flourish of hand movements. "You see Luke, the TechiForce has great power over weak minds who believe there is a mystical cloud someplace. In reality is all just hosted applications but it sounds like something new and wonderful to them."
    "Oh," Luke replies with his head hanging low...
    goofyfoot2001
  • Obiwan is...

    supposed to be Luke's son, but Yodi just calls him that because he believes he is mature enough to take a challenging remark.
    crcgraphix
  • What timing!

    The new boss of Server and Tools is Satya Nadella, formerly of Bing. Who better to turn Server and Tools around from reliable growth and profits than the former leader of the division that built a bonfire with $2.5B of the company's money last year?

    Your fave pick, Amitabh Srivastava, is now leaving the company.

    @hayneiii - How prophetic.
    symbolset
  • &quot;Cloudies&quot;

    Dang it, it's a Data Center! Stop with the cute phrases.
    james347
  • Microsoft can afford to make endless huge mistakes.

    You've only go to look at their balance sheet. Even having Balmer as CEO didn't do them much harm. There's nothing they can do to stop money pouring in from Windows and Office. Even if in 5 years time Cloud is seen as an embarrassing mistake, it won't matter. This stinking company and its crap software just won't go away.
    peter_erskine@...
  • &quot;Cloudies&quot;??? For goodness sake, get over the &quot;cloud&quot; labels

    It's simply one or more computers, typically at a location distant from your computer. IOW, a networked environment. Stop with the silly labels ... please!
    no_axe_to__grind
  • Re: For goodness sake, get over the &quot;cloud&quot; labels

    Yeah, I've been writing cloud software for almost 20 years (since '94', when I build an ISP)

    Turns out that it's a cheap way to present an app for free. Basically a web page with some gears behind it. Usually the money comes from a direction other than the users.
    I still do it, and that's still the model, and I get paid quite well for it.
    Tsingi
  • RE: Will cloudies take over at Microsoft?

    The biggest advantage Microsoft has is their huge installed user base. No matter how many Return on Investment proposals are produced showing the benefits of Cloud Computing, many organisations will adopt the ?do nothing? strategy and go on renewing Enterprise Agreement license contracts with Microsoft as they see it as the least disruptive course of action.
    http://grahamsblog4444.blogspot.com/
    grahamc2
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  • RE: Will cloudies take over at Microsoft?

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  • RE: Will cloudies take over at Microsoft?

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