Microsoft’s New Leader of Server and Tools: ‘Our Mission Is to Cloud-Optimize Every Business’

REDMOND, Wash. – June 22, 2011 – Satya Nadella, the new president of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business (STB), recently told Microsoft employees that “Microsoft has always stood for democratizing access to computing platforms. We did it with PC-based server computing, the biggest democratizing force ever. We have a similar opportunity now with cloud computing that will make it possible for companies of all sizes, and countries of all GDPs, to really take advantage of latest technology to improve productivity and people’s lives.”

Satya Nadella, President, Server & Tools Business at Microsoft.

Nadella added that his top priority as STB president is to cultivate a vibrant engineering community armed with best tools around. That community in turn will lead the company through a computing shift every bit as transformational as the rise of the PC.

As the industry moves toward what he calls the “post-virtualization era,” Nadella reflects on the industry trends that are driving the shift. First, the notion of a modern operating system is shifting from software running on a single, physical server, to software running across an entire datacenter of servers. Services traditionally managed by a machine – storage, networking, compute – are no longer bound to a particular machine. This notion of an “elastic” infrastructure can have significant business benefits for customers. Moreover, he says, the data itself is becoming a platform developers can build on that leads to a whole new set of innovative application scenarios.

Delivering companies new value through the cloud will be at the center of everything STB does moving forward: “Our strategy in a nutshell is to cloud-optimize every business,” he said. That means offering businesses on-demand, scalable infrastructure and the ability to tap massive amounts of data for new business insight.

Nadella, a Microsoft veteran since 1992, was appointed to his new role in February. As president of STB, he is tasked with leading Microsoft’s enterprise transformation into the cloud and providing the technology roadmap and vision for the future of business computing.

Nadella said his vision for STB has been shaped by the previous stops on his Microsoft journey. Up until a few months ago, he was senior vice president of R&D for Microsoft’s Online Services Division (OSD). There he oversaw the technical vision and engineering of some of the biggest Web services in the world, such as Bing, MSN, and adCenter. Those online operations illuminated the sheer scale of infrastructure needed to run them; Bing alone is powered by 250,000 servers, which manage upwards of 150 petabytes (1 petabyte=1 quadrillion bytes.)

The last time Nadella had thought about computing at that scale was in the abstract at graduate school. His boss at the time, OSD President Qi Lu, told him to embrace the new perspective.

“Qi would stress to me, ‘Look, as long as you don’t get Internet scale in its full-glory detail, you just don’t get the systems you need to build going forward,’” he said.

During four and half years at OSD, Nadella absorbed the lesson. He said his time at OSD prompted him to relearn infrastructure – something he wants to help Microsoft’s server business to do as it presses on into cloud computing. Massive systems infrastructure is required to handle workloads like Bing or Microsoft adCenter, which runs 20,000 simultaneous auctions each time a search query happens. That scale has shaped his thinking about the back-end infrastructure Microsoft must build going forward.

“As the industry moves more and more towards the public cloud – which will take time – we’ll move from the private cloud ‘datacenter OS’ that represents thousands of processing cores to a ‘public cloud OS’ that will need to understand a million cores. Our customers will want a vendor who is both battle-tested in the operating system and in the cloud scale services. Microsoft will be that vendor.”

“You can’t head-fake your way into running a public cloud service,” he notes. “You have to live it.”

Nadella doesn’t have to think twice when asked about his plans for STB’s future. “We have the leading server operating system share and the most widely used database, professional developer tools, and mission critical developer framework in the industry. But we can’t be complacent – we will continue to grow our existing business, but the cloud will shape the future of the industry, and we aim to be the industry leader.”

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