Microsoft: The cloud company

What’s the first product you think of when you think of Microsoft? Windows, right? People will still be thinking that for another generation, but it’s no longer true. Microsoft is becoming a cloud company.

Amazingly, Windows is no longer Microsoft’s cash cow. In Microsoft’s most reccent 10-Q (its quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission), the company’s single biggest revenue stream flowed from its server and cloud divisions.

Windows? It was Number 4, after Xbox games and Microsoft Office.

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Bill Gates’ Redmond anymore.

It’s not just that Windows and the PC are in decline, although PC sales are now at 2007 levels. No, the real change is that we’re well on our way to a cloud-based IT world, and Microsoft figured that out long before many other big-name technology companies did.

It’s more than just the cloud. Along the way, Microsoft — of all companies! — started using and producing open-source software.

This isn’t your dad’s Microsoft.

Today’s Microsoft supports Debian GNU/Linux on its Azure cloud; has its own specialized Linux distribution, Azure Cloud Switch; and Azure’s CTO Mark Russinovich, is telling Linux developers to send him their resumes.

He wasn’t kidding. A quick LinkedIn search for Linux jobs at Microsoft came up with over a hundred hits. The vast majority of these jobs were for — surprise! — Linux running on Azure.

Why is Microsoft, of all companies, combing Linux and open-source software on its cloud? Because that’s what people want.

Russinovich said that for Azure “to be a viable cloud platform, we needed to support Linux. We started with Linux on the day we launched Azure.” How serious is this? He added that in the fall of 2014 “one in five instances on Azure were Linux. Today, about a year later, one in four instances are Linux.”

So here we are, in 2016, and Microsoft has become, foremost, a cloud company, and secondly, an open-source business. If you still think it’s business as usual in IT, think again. Things are changing.


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