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1/12/2011
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Global CIO: Microsoft Launching Cloud Attack On Enterprise Stack

CEO Steve Ballmer is realigning Microsoft's enterprise products as he prepares to take on IBM, Oracle, and SAP for major enterprise deals.

In a striking move with huge implications, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer earlier this week jettisoned long-time senior executive Bob Muglia from atop the company's core enterprise-products business.

Saying that different times and different opportunities require different talent and different visions, Ballmer made it clear that he believes that Microsoft's disjointed enterprise-software strategy no longer meets the needs of forward-looking CIOs.

And to demonstrate his own commitment to forcefully and immediately reverse that position, he was willing to push aside highly regarded 22-year company veteran Bob Muglia.

Clearly, there's a lot more going on here than just a personnel switch. And one of the most intriguing interpretations I've heard on this says that Ballmer is planning to recombine some of Microsoft's currently disparate enterprise products and go-to-market efforts into a much more highly focused effort to match or at least emulate the broad and unified enterprise-stack approaches currently offered by IBM and Oracle and in part by SAP.

Josh Greenbaum, principal at software consultancy Enterprise Matters, offers up this sophisticated interpretation of the strategic intent behind Ballmer's ouster of Muglia:

"Microsoft is going to reorg around its own 'stack' business, and in doing so take a major new tact in the battle for the enterprise," writes Greenbaum in a blog post called Bob Muglia Leaves—is this the Beginning of a Major Enterprise Realignment at Microsoft?.

"The new tact will be Microsoft's own version of the stack wars, in which Azure, fueled by the Dynamics ERP products and partners' enterprise software and services, becomes the leading edge of an increasing focus on direct sales to the enterprise.

"This won't obliterate the thousands of partners from the mix, but it will create a major shift in how Microsoft goes to market, particularly with respect to the large enterprise: much more direct and more in line with what IBM, SAP, and Oracle are able to do with their stack offerings."

Greenbaum's idea makes a great deal of sense because while Microsoft currently offers a wide range of enterprise-class products and technologies, those tools and applications are often taken to market in a fashion that aligns more closely with Microsoft's internal structure than it does with customers' needs and preferences.

Right now, it's like the predicament in which Scarecrow from "The Wizard of Oz" finds himself after his run-in with the flying monkeys in the bellhop outfits: he can still talk a great game but he's unable to move because one of his legs is over there and another is over here while his arms are in still different places. And somebody's gotta put all the pieces back together again.

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For Microsoft, that's doubly true if Ballmer expects to be able not only to infuse his company with a more cohesive and aggressive set of enterprise offerings, but also if he expects that those goods and services will be able to compete with what IBM and Oracle and SAP are already offering and in ways that CIOs have come to expect.

Greenbaum's analysis says that the key behind Microsoft's effort will be Azure:

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