I’m an avid tennis fan, and with the Australian Open into its second week, it will come as no surprise (least of all to my wife) that tennis is top of mind for me right now. I recently read an article on the evolution of tennis racquets over the history of the game. It turns out that the availability of light-weight aluminum racquets in the late 1960s was a major inflection point. What was particularly fascinating to me is that despite their obvious superiority, these racquets were initially spurned by many professional players, who continued to rely on wooden equipment. No doubt these players were lulled into a false sense of security by the (incremental) improvements touted by wooden racquet manufacturers (many of whom are no longer in business). Ultimately, players like Jimmy Connors, who pioneered the use of aluminum racquets, were able to blaze their way to glory partly because they had realized that times had changed, and what worked before wasn’t necessarily going to work in the future.
This is not dissimilar to the choices IT leaders face today. In technology, as in sports, to keep a competitive edge, you have to continuously adapt to the ever-changing game. Looking at VMware’s recent announcements, I’m left wondering if they are giving their customers the state-of-the-art equipment they need to win.
I am fortunate to have the opportunity to discuss today’s infrastructure challenges with our customers and partners on a regular basis. Based on these conversations, two things stand out for me:
- Every customer has a unique cloud roadmap: Most IT organizations are still defining their cloud roadmap, and every organization has a unique set of factors and needs that go into determining exactly how this roadmap looks. For example, while one CIO is most concerned with the mushrooming of shadow IT teams within her company’s business units, another’s top priority is securely managing hundreds of “BYOD” mobile devices being brought in by employees. Yet another IT Director is worried about the recent explosion in the amount of data being generated by his company.
- IT infrastructure investments need to be future proof: Faced with financial uncertainty, many of our customers have held off on making significant infrastructure investments, including hardware. More importantly, most realize that IT will be in a state of flux for the foreseeable future due to the astonishing pace of change in cloud technologies.
In such an environment, it’s no surprise that customers want their infrastructure investments to be able to adapt as the IT environment around them changes. They also want to be able to do things their way, and not be constrained by the limitations of a vendor’s solution. Continuing our discussion from my earlier post, this week I will explain why I believe Microsoft’s commitment to the Cloud OS vision results in a more comprehensive and future-proof set of infrastructure products than those offered by our competitors.
Of course, there is no dearth of “cloud” vendors in the IT landscape, each claiming to solve ALL your IT challenges (I suspect they will also eradicate world hunger if you would only let them). You may be rightfully wondering – what separates Microsoft from the rest? I will provide two reasons:
The first is the uniqueness of our vision for your datacenter. To put it simply, with the Microsoft Cloud OS, you get one consistent platform for infrastructure, apps and data. And you get to decide where you want to extend this platform to – your datacenter, your hosting service provider and/or the Microsoft public cloud. In other words, you choose your cloud roadmap, and Microsoft will support you with a consistent experience no matter where you are.
Secondly (and as just as importantly), we are already bringing our vision to life, thanks to our ability to take the learnings from running some of the world’s largest datacenters and apply them to our infrastructure products. With System Center 2012 SP1, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Azure, Microsoft provides a unique set of capabilities to help customers provision and manage their infrastructure now, whether it is on-premises, in a Microsoft datacenter, or delivered by a hosting service provider. You can even choose a hybrid model that combines these options. Consider the following examples:
- Hybrid management through a single pane of glass: System Center 2012 SP1 can help you view your services and virtual machines residing on-premises, with your service provider, or on Windows Azure services, and get granular control of the components at each layer, track jobs, and maintain a detailed history of changes.
- Software Defined Networking: SDN features within Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 SP1 allow for flexible placement of networks and virtual machines, even to an offsite datacenter.
- Offsite data backup: System Center 2012 SP1 can now backup data from your datacenter to Windows Azure.
- Flexible Automation: System Center 2012 SP1 can now also provide automation for your Windows Azure workloads (using the Windows Azure Integration Pack), in addition to providing advanced automation for your datacenters.
- Consistent experiences across Windows Azure and Windows Server: The high-scale web site and virtual machine hosting capabilities that we built for Windows Azure are being made available to hosting service providers to run on their own Windows Server and System Center infrastructure. As a result, customers get a consistent experience, regardless of whether they use Windows Azure, or a hosting service provider for their public cloud/hybrid needs.
How does our competition stack up? Let’s look at VMware’s cloud portfolio. VMware customers that were evaluating their cloud roadmap were, until recently, faced with a myriad of confusing choices regarding public cloud and hybrid models. Should they use vFabric or Cloudfoundry.com? Cloudfoundry.org? SpringSource? Customers that were brave enough to dive in often had to deal with inconsistent functionality and experiences across these cloud services. To make things worse, recent announcements regarding the Pivotal Initiative have further muddied the waters. What will VMware do next? It’s hard to say, which doesn’t inspire too much confidence. These developments beg the question – is VMware still focused on building better wooden racquets?
You need not take my word for it. More and more customers are choosing Microsoft for their infrastructure precisely because of our consistent platform for public cloud, private cloud and hybrid models. A few examples are noted below:
- Munder Capital Management, which realized substantial savings from both higher staff productivity as well as licensing costs, said that “with System Center 2012, we can manage public, private, and hybrid clouds from the same ‘pane of glass.’”
- Avanade, which uses a hybrid on-premises/Windows Azure solution to quickly and cost-effectively deploy Windows 8 to its employees around the world.
Microsoft’s demonstrated commitment to provide consistent experiences to our customers, regardless of where they are on the cloud roadmap, makes an investment in Microsoft truly adaptable as the needs of your business change. As you evaluate your IT roadmap, I encourage you to ask yourselves – can the competition truly claim that?
Thank you for taking the time to read this post.