Microsoft is pushing to move its internal software development to the cloud

Microsoft is pushing to move its internal software development to the cloud

Summary: A Microsoft Research effort called 'Cloud Build' spawned work to increase cloud-based software and services development inside the company.


Microsoft is a devices and services company these days. But the way the company (and most of its customers) build software still revolves largely around desktop tools.


There are forces inside Microsoft working to change that paradigm, however.

In a video clip from a July 17 "Future of Software Engineering Symposium" held in Redmond, Wash., one former Microsoft researcher shed light on efforts inside the company to get more teams at Microsoft to write software and services in the cloud. (Thanks to @h0x0d for the tweet with the link to the video.)

A year and a half ago, James Larus, the father of Microsoft's Singularity operating system, and Galen Hunt, the head of OS research in Microsoft Research, started an initiative called "Cloud Build," Larus told conference attendees. Larus said Cloud Build was "an attempt to get developers to write in the cloud, not on the desktop." He noted that Google "does this already."

Instead of meeting opposition, Larus said developers in Microsoft were excited about the idea after reading an internal white paper Larus and Hunt wrote on the topic. Many on product teams across the company wanted in on the research action, he said.

The sentiment was that going cloud would accelerate the software development process. "Artifacts" and tools could "live in the cloud," Larus said. And testing and statistical analysis would be naturals for a cloud-first approach, he added. Cloud development would promote code reuse and make it easier for everyone to run on a common platform, Larus said.

Wolfram Schulte, another Microsoft researcher, built a team "outside Microsoft Research to build this out," Larus said.

Schulte, according to his bio on the Microsoft Research site, is heading up a team called Tools for Software Engineers (TSE). TSE "is creating a future where Microsoft's software engineering systems are considered best-in-class industry wide," according to the TSE page on Microsoft's site.

There are two current TSE projects, according to the site:

CloudDev - bring all of the positive network effects afforded by cloud computing to the practice of software development at Microsoft. Provides cloud-based build, test, and analytics services to product groups across Microsoft. The first short-term objective is to shorten the continuous integration cycle time - the minimum time required for a typical source code change to move from check-in to compiled and unit tested binary.

CodeMine - provide the right data, at the right time, in the right context for making engineering decisions. Building a Software Analytics Platform for Collecting and Analyzing Engineering Process Data at Microsoft.

"TSE has combination of world class engineers and leading software engineering researchers. Our customers are product groups like Windows, Windows Phone, Office, Azure, Xbox, Bing, SQL, Developer Division, Dynamics, and others," the page said.

I asked Microsoft if any current research projects, such as the Orleans cloud programming framework (on which Larus was the lead) were related to TSE and/or the Cloud Build work that Larus outlined. The Halo team at Microsoft has used Orleans to build services that are hosted on Windows Azure. A company spokesperson declined comment.

Microsoft also is doing other work revolving around the cloud and software development. Its Team Foundation Service is hosted on Windows Azure. And the Windows Phone team has used "cloud compilation" techniques to make the Windows Phone operating system and applications faster and to help with porting apps to new versions of the Phone OS.

Update: Microsoft also is reminding its MSDN subscribers this week about their recently updated Windows Azure benefits, hoping to entice more external Windows developers to go the cloud route, too. 

Topics: Cloud, Emerging Tech, Microsoft, Software Development


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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  • Chromebooks with Chrome OS for development and testing in the Cloud

    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Great!

    MS' onward march to make its own client platforms irrelevant.
    P. Douglas
  • Spinning up Azure stuff regularly

    W/ the MSDN benefit my company provides me, I am constantly circumventing the headache that is our IT dept and spinning up my own stuff on Azure. The ease w/ which they provide this ability is second-to-none, in my opinion.
  • cloud software

    Told ya so
  • Oh God

    They've ruined Windows with Metro. Now they're planning to ruin Visual Studio?
    • Ruin?

      This would make Visual Studio obsolete. In other words, your web browser would become Visual Studio.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Not exactly

        You still need a service.
    • There s also free bonus

      Plus, they will have first observer right on your software's source code etc. Might be, at some point Microsoft plans to offer fixing bugs in your software sources, or free auditing. Of course, integration of your IP in Microsoft's "own" software is a bonus. Who would not want his code to be recognized by Microsoft, the software moguls? :)
    • Visual Studio is ruined now.

      Without Setup & Deployment, Macros, the Metro ugly UI with horrible icons and ALL CAPS menu, most users sticked in the 2010 version.

      Also Microsoft is not hearing users. Setup & Deployment with more than 5.800 uservoice request is ignored by Microsoft:
      • Use InstallShield

        I've always preferred it anyways.
      • VS 2012 is better than VS 2010

        Just install VSCommands and you can camel case your menu. Setup & Deployment? This is obsolete. App Stores for hard clients, Team City and continuous integration for web applications.
  • Software Development Tools Rental

    This looks like yet one more thing that Microsoft is doing that no one is asking for but they are still doing it anyway because it lines up with their new strategy for software rental. I am sure is only a matter of time before they move everything to the cloud and start charging monthly fees for using the tools.

    I am not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing but I wish they just call it for what it is instead of coming up with all kind of ridiculous justification to make it sound like the cloud is the epitome of greatness.
    • The irony of things

      Some will remember back in the day, when people could own their own computers, develop their own programs, do things according their own schedules. Now we are returning to the mainframe days where no one owns anything, and all the power rests with in corporations with powerful, remote computer systems. And the ironic thing is that the company who democratized computing on a large scale, is the one leading the charge back to the way things were.

      Now the public cloud is beginning to scare me. The U.S. founding fathers so distrusted government, that they split up the U.S. federal government into 3 branches, each with its own agenda. The U.S. founding fathers broadly believed in the separation of powers, because they feared too much cooperation among government branches, and the consequences of this, should the government start abusing its citizens. Now these structural separations are being undermined on a massive scale by the public cloud, as government agencies can work together in concerted efforts against its citizens. It is not a matter of if this will happen, it is a matter of when. Why? Because governments have always abused their power in the past.

      Think of what would happen, if the Nazis were to take over the U.S. now. In the most efficient manner, they would be able to track down and exterminate groups with remarkable efficiency. There would be nowhere to hide. Within minutes, the government could compile extensive dossiers, on any individual. The public cloud is systematically breaking down barriers to abusive plays by governments and large corporations, put in place by their original architects; and I simply do not like this push for everything to go to the public cloud. The benefits of the public cloud are simply not worth the risks to individual liberty.
      P. Douglas
      • Some will remember back in the day...

        The main difference, in my opinion, is that it's now more economical when you need to scale for short periods of time. For example, if I need the processing power of 1,000 cores for 2 hours per month, I don't need to purchase all that hardware. I can scale up to 1,000 cores in the cloud for two hours and then scale it back down, paying for only what I need - when I need it.

        So, in some respects, it's kind of the same as how it used to be (i.e. centralized computing) but it is much more scalable and affordable, especially for limited use.
        • Its also much easier for others to access your data

          In addition to it being more economical to get short term processing power, its far easier for others to get at your data including those you may not want to snoope in your data without your knowledge. Even though the Patriot Act claims the Feds have the power to by-pass constitutionally protected rights, the fact is the cloud providers are NOT going to fight for your privacy/rights like you would if you had the data. Think of rental storage units where you may store something for the short term versus keeping it at your house.

          The Government (at any level) can break in, check out and even duplicate your property and all without your knowledge and the rental storage unit company/owner is legally bound to not disclose to you what happened. Had that info been in your possession it would be much harder to get at without your knowledge. You can also bet that the storage rental company will make 0 effort to protect you or your stuff.

          This is not un unfounded fear or conspiracy theory as the Federal government has already proven they do this kind of thing and they have publicly claimed the power to do so because its all in the name of fighting the Al-qaeda boogeyman that is hiding under every rock and behind every door. Don’t confuse that with the same Al-qaeda that the Federal government is funding and providing support for over seas. How can it not be the same Al-qaeda? It must be 2 different organizations of the same name because if it weren’t that would mean that our own government is funding/supporting the same enemy it uses to justify the violation of our rights. We haven’t gotten far enough down the road to tyranny and a police state for them to openly admit the 2 are the same.
    • Rental is Right!


      Mike you nailed it. This is indeed a move to push rental software in place of owned software. Despite what an EULA says I believe it’s safe to say that the majority of clients/users who purchase (not rent) software would agree that they when they buy (not rent) the software they are buying it to own and use for as long as it works. This move to the cloud is in part an attempt to move from software that is owned to software that is rented. Why?

      Renting generates a very different mindset then ownership no matter what it is you are renting. Take the example of residences. If you own your home versus renting you are far more likely to take care of it, to keep up the p[lace because it’s yours even if you still have 20+ years on your mortgage. If however you rent a place whether it’s an apartment or home the mindset is typically one of “It’s not my place I’m just here temporarily so what do I care about it”. There are always exceptions to everything so the rental mindset s not applicable to everyone just a majority. Renting over time perpetuates a very different attitude about other things as well.

      Imagine that you live in an apartment, you lease a car and all your furniture, electronics (including cell phone and computing devices) and even software are all on some form of rental or leasing. Under that scenario you have no vested ownership in anything. You are literally a temporary person living in the moment gong from month to month. While this does have the benefit of making you portable and easy to pull up and relocate (i.e. for a job) it also prevents you from settling down and taking root somewhere as part of a community. This in turn affects relationships and offspring. When you take this scenario and apply it across the masses you can see a move from the traditional family/community to a world of temporary “live in the moment” lifestyles that promote instability and displacement.

      Yes I realize that may be a long step from the ownership of software versus renting software but it’s all part of a larger picture that most choose to ignore. Ask yourself this, are we as a society better off today with all our technology and advancements then our grandparents were? More than half of the working class in America (those persons of age who are eligible to work) are on some form of government assistance like food stamps. We may not have the bread & soup lines that our [great] grandparents had but that’s because we have direct government assistance in the form of food stamps in debit cards and so no one has to go to a bread line of soup kitchen. It’s not because we are economically fitter however the perception is that we are better off and that’s not by accident.

      Ask yourself this, why does our Federal government continue to expand the Federal budget despite the fact that we are now printing money to supplement half of that annual budget? Does that make any sense at all? If you could print your own money and use it pay your debts and so could everyone else you do business with how long would it take before the system collapsed? You can’t just create money from nothing and expect it to be the same value as the last batch you printed and yet that’s how our Federal Government runs.
  • Microsoft

    will try to drive all of its customers to the crowd to maximize revenue. I predict it will only speed up its demise.
  • What is point of me coding ?

    When Microsoft just wants to throw my hard work on the "cloud" available to god knows who.

    I don't want it, I never asked for it and guess what there is no way in hell I'm gonna buy it.

    This isn't a service it's am absolute nightmare.
    • If that's what you think you should stop coding now.

      Nobody is going to make you code for the cloud.
  • Especially poor choice for the overseas developers.

    Anything they do is given to the US.

    Nothing else could isolate MS more.