People you always wanted to meet…


Just finished Day Three at the Azure Cloud Architect Training Bootcamp in Bellevue, Seattle.   I am beyond impressed at the quality of delivery and attention to details of the event, more so as I had no idea in advance that it would be attended by both internal Microsoft field resources and Partners alike.  Turns out we have 200 folks from all over the world attending, a Worldwide Geekathon discussing all thing Azure.  The goal is to get aligned with the latest updates from the horses mouth a.k.a Azure Engineering Team.

I’m not going to go into detail here about the multiple interesting briefings and sessions going on, you can go read about that here.  This post is purely in recognition of the experience I had this morning at the 0800am keynote speech.

Normally I’m a “please don’t talk to me until at least 10am and had two coffees” kind of person.  However I sat totally engaged listening to an individual called Rick Bakken, Sr. Director of Data Center Evangelism at Microsoft.  He’s the guy who’s envisioned putting Microsoft’s latest and next generation data centers at the bottom of the ocean because it’s nice and COLD there:

Microsoft Plumbs Ocean’s Depths to Test Underwater Data Center

According to Rick, the investments being made in large scale datacenter technology to support the Cloud  is truly staggering.  Millions of miles of undersea cable are being laid every year, connecting continents in dark fiber exclusively owned by Microsoft simultaneously making it the worlds largest Telco.  Generations of DC deployment, going back to Gen1 in 1989 to current and future Gen5, have radically evolved and learned from their predecessors.  These sites are now cookie-cutter deployments done on a grand scale following a modular concept:

Rick confides that Information Technology is now a changing conversation – the business model is changing from Enterprise to Utility IT.  There exists in most organizations a duplication of multiple application workloads and human interaction which can be standardized once a move to the cloud is fully understood and adopted as a new business model.  This makes complete sense; in the last 18 months my initial conversations with project sponsors and stakeholders has radically changed from being a technical discussion first and foremost, to a business discussion. This often involves having the customer deeply assess their own environments about how IT is being consumed and how this might change in Azure.  Planning and Discovery in a Business Analyst role is now more important than the traditional “how do we migrate data” technicalities.

This radical change in information technology psychology is driving the cloud consumption we now hear about so often.  To accompany the pace of change, Microsoft has built a whole science around squeezing every last ounce of efficiency out of their datacenter deployments whilst learning from what went before:

The key takeaway is that the inefficiencies being removed allow the IT spend to go up, enabling reinvestment:

Underlying it all is the one thing that they can’t get enough of:

“It’s not about how many servers we deploy every day, or how many data centers we spin up every quarter – it’s all about power and cooling.”

There’s alot of learning being done along the way, some of it achingly simple: “Apart from literally being the coolest place to put a hot datacenter, we found out it’s also the most secure place!” Seems obvious yet security is a major complicating factor. Microsoft it seems has a team purely dedicated to buying fences to secure their datacenters.  Another example: “We found out in Dublin that when we opened the windows, our power bill fell dramatically!”

Rick admits the undersea datacenter design effort is still in R&D as they grapple with the ramifications of exploring a whole new environment.  Apparently there’s a lot of regulatory and compliance issues about potential conflicts of interest with the fish in a below-sea-level datacenter.  That’s why Microsoft employ a whole army of lawyers.

He delivers all this with great enthusiasm and humor – to be fair most of the Senior Program Managers speak with great authority – but this is another few levels up.   I’m looking around and every person in the room is gripped by the intensity and detail of the content being imparted despite it being so early.  This is content from the horse’s mouth that’s shaping “Big Data” (or Hyper Scale) computing…for the next 15 years.

Over the next 15 years Microsoft are going to continue to innovate as the leaders in this space.  Right now it’s about going harder, faster, better. Rick Bakken makes references to Google and AWS but is quick to stress that they are not competing with either of these two cloud giants.  “Customers are going to go with one out of the three cloud vendors or even multi-platform according to need.” This is also true for IaaS and PaaS.  “The new answer is we support everything and if we don’t already we will soon.”

I wish I had a video recording of this talk, unfortunately it was all NDA.  The takeaway though is very clear:  take your customers to the nearest Microsoft Technology Center and do the tour.  Understand the pace of the innovation underway in Cloud computing already being deployed and what’s in R&D. Go see for yourself!

You can grab the full PPT deck from this session here:!AmIoZuJAOxlngqInKTNetouxaqlQIw 

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