Government // Enterprise Architecture
Commentary
7/13/2010
09:46 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Global CIO: Microsoft Joins Oracle & IBM In Rise Of The Machines

A CIO's plea that "We never want another update from Microsoft again" spurs Redmond to join the swelling ranks of IT-appliance providers.

A news story this week in the Seattle Times tells a story of conversion about as profound as any we've seen since Paul of Tarsus lit out for Damascus 2,000 years ago:

Microsoft executive Bob Muglia said he was meeting with a chief information officer last year when the man grabbed him and said, "You don't get it. We never want another update from Microsoft again."

The man was frustrated by the software updates a corporate customer has to install if it uses Microsoft software — security patches, service packs, other bug fixes.

"I said, 'Wow,' " recalled Muglia, president of Microsoft's Servers and Tools business. "It was really at that moment I got it; I got what cloud computing was all about. What he was asking for was for me to deliver IT as a service."

In turn, Microsoft plans to deliver what my colleague Charlie Babcock describes thusly: "The Azure platform appliance is designed to be deployed in an on-premises private cloud in racks of hundreds or thousands of servers. It will run both Windows Server and a software stack that matches what's available in Microsoft's Azure public cloud. In addition to enterprises, the appliance is geared for use by large cloud services suppliers."

Opening another chapter in the IT industry's custom version of "The Rise Of The Machines," Microsoft joins IBM and its workload-optimized systems, Oracle with its Exadata Database Machine, and Netezza and Teradata with their data-warehousing appliances.

In addition, SAP is looking to join the specialized-machine community in the near future after announcing in May at its Sapphire global customer conference that it would be introducing with IBM and with HP two finely tuned systems aimed at large-scale and sophisticated BI applications. And then there's the optimized system that HP's planning to create with SAS.

On top of that, we have EMC recently announcing a deal to acquire Greenplum to get into the data-warehousing-machine business, while Dell and Fujitsu are also joining the party as partners of Microsoft in rolling out its Azure appliance.

You can imagine the wave of tacky monikers soon to wash ashore: Cloud in a Box, BI in a Box, DataMartBox, SarBoxBox, PunchCloxBox, InventoryStoxBox, and so on.

That swill aside, the real issue is a dramatic trend among hardware and software companies to help their CIO customers get out of the perpetual integration, tuning, and update business and into the revenue-growth, customer-engagement, and innovation businesses where they belong.

You can hear the desperation for that type of transformation in the plea mentioned at the top of this column to Microsoft's Muglia from the unidentified CIO: "We never want another update from Microsoft again!"

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I rather doubt that the CIO meant he loves his Microsoft stack just as it is today and wants it permanently frozen in place. No, it's pretty clear that the object of his frustration was the seemingly endless slog of busywork that such updates bring, and the drag on productive work they entail.

As a result, more and more IT vendors are assembling, either in-house or in concert with partners, integrated and optimized systems that allow CIOs and their teams to spend less time tinkering with screwdrivers and duct tape and more time addressing high-value business-technology projects. As an example, here's more from Charlie Babcock on the thinking behind the Microsoft Azure appliance:

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