Microsoft Azure Exec: Global Political Issues Impacting Cloud Conversations

Recent political situations in countries including the U.K. and U.S. have had a “very material impact on the cloud conversations” that Microsoft has been having with customers, according to Julia White, corporate VP for Microsoft Azure cloud marketing.

Those conversations pertain to issues that include where data is residing, where data centers are located, who has access to them, privacy and data handling,” she said Feb. 14 at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco. She added that “those conversations are coming up more and more based on” the political situations we’ve seen.

At the same time, Microsoft Azure’s technology advancements and the cloud market have been “developing about as expected” over the past 12 months, she said, adding there hadn’t been any major disruptions or surprises on those fronts.

People are starting to really think about the “holistic data center migration to the cloud,” including “mission-critical applications” and “very sensitive” business data, she said.

Office 365 is Microsoft’s “most mature commercial cloud offering,” she pointed out. Early on, people who used it tended to just use it for applications like archiving, but those people eventually started using the software for their “entire productivity stack in the cloud,” she said. “We’re seeing a similar cycle from the infrastructure and the holistic data center side” of the business also now, she said.

The cloud has now reached the “mainstream” — a wide cross-section of people who work for organizations in multiple types of roles — when it comes to conversations and planning, she went on to say. “But I don’t think we’ve hit mainstream in actual cloud adoption from an infrastructure and platform perspective,” she said. It would be nice if cloud adoption started moving faster, she conceded, but stressed that we shouldn’t expect a drastic shift to happen overnight.

One promising development was that, at the end of 2016, about 50% of mainstream organizations felt that cloud security was superior to what they could do themselves on premises, she said.

Security remains the top-ranked priority for customers when it comes to the cloud, she also told the conference, although “it’s become less so” as concerns over privacy have risen, she said.

The issue that she said she talked about most with mainstream, non-technology companies is “how do you make the cloud easier” to work with. “We’re innovating so quickly — all of us are — not just Microsoft,” she noted. But if you’re an auto manufacturer, just as an example, it’s hard to keep up with all those innovations, she said. Such companies would love to see the transition from data centers to clouds happen “much smoother,” she said, warning that nobody should “assume everything is going to the cloud overnight.” It’s important, therefore, to use hybrid data storage solutions until there’s a complete shift to the cloud, she said.

Microsoft Azure, meanwhile, is “in the final stages of launching our consistent platform with Azure Stack, which is actually taking the technology of our public cloud, Azure, and putting it in a smaller” hybrid product that enables customers to deliver Azure services from their own data centers, she said.