Sataya Nadella CEO Microsoft Cloud StrategyAs CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, heads up a company that is both an important partner and a real competitor. He can be heard citing German “Dichter & Denker” like Nietzsche and Rainer Maria Rilke and is a particularly interesting person in the tech world. So let’s take a look at his latest strategy at Microsoft.

Nadella took on a difficult job when he became CEO of Microsoft. The company is just now learning that its market share of client operating systems is not above 90% as the company used to estimate, but just at 14%, owing to the huge number of smart phones and tablets in use today.  So it is not surprising that, according to Nadella’s own analysis, Microsoft and its culture must change to become more customer-oriented and efficient. This is true for many companies, even for Univention at times. Unlike smaller companies that can move quickly in response to customer needs and to opportunities presented by new technology, Nadella sits atop a very large tanker ship, turning the wheel around and around and eventually the tanker will slowly start moving. I think he knows that.

An important aspect of Microsoft’s cultural change is that they are allowing more variety in regard to client operating systems. Nadella already started to make Microsoft software such as Office available on competing Android and iOS platforms and he announced he would intensify this strategy. This is not surprising, of course, given their sharply decreasing client market share.

Microsoft wants to become the “Mobile first – cloud first” company. But while “mobile” means any mobile device, “cloud” means their own Azure cloud. Nadella is clear on that. The strategy is to leverage Microsoft’s leading position with Windows Server to pull everyone into the Microsoft Cloud. Or as he puts it, “The combination of Azure and Windows Server makes us the only company with a public, private and hybrid cloud platform that can power modern business…We will enable our customers to use our Cloud OS to accelerate their businesses and power all of their data and application needs.”

Microsoft’s strategy is to shift the vendor lock-in it had with client and server operating systems to a new lock-in with its cloud — and they are trying to achieve this using Windows Server, Office, and Outlook.

We share Nadella’s vision of hybrid IT consisting of parts running on the clients, others on premises and a third group in the cloud, because only this combination will ensure the flexibility organizations need to operate successfully. We also share customers’ vision of having an easy-to-use, yet powerful, management system to handle the complexity arising from hybrid scenarios and to leverage the amazing benefits cloud computing provides.  Unlike Microsoft, we are building this management system as open source software.

And here are two more huge differences between Microsoft’s vision and ours at Univention: While Microsoft wants to control the cloud we know that customers want and require the freedom to choose. There are workloads that can instantly move to large and inexpensive cloud service providers abroad. Others, however, need more protection and are better suited to smaller providers offering real customer relationships while working within the same legal framework of the customer. Organizations might even want the freedom to change cloud service providers if they become too expensive or do not meet service expectations. Sometimes they want to bring applications back on premises if they believe this makes sense.

In fact, customers not only want the ability to choose between different cloud service providers, they also want to choose between different applications. In monolithic clouds like those Google and Microsoft are building, you can’t choose between different solutions e.g. for collaboration, word processing or sharing files. In contrary, a truly open cloud offers various solutions for the same purpose that can be purchased from different cloud service providers or run on premises and thus ensure competition and agility.

We are currently speaking to a number of cloud service providers that embrace the idea of an open flexible cloud. If you are an ISV or a CSP, we will be happy to hear from you.

(Picture source: Microsoft.com)

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Peter H. Ganten is the founder and CEO of Univention.

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