The entire Microsoft Global Solutions Marketing (GSM) Team attended Microsoft TechEd 2014: 6 of us in total. Another 10 EMCers attended from EMC PreSales and EMC Product Groups. The following summary was created and compiled by the GSM team in a cooperative effort to understand and interpret Microsoft's Technical and Marketing content that we gathered from TechEd 2014 in Houston, Texas May 11-15, 2014.
Looking at what Microsoft was positioning to its customers at TechEd 2014, we have ascertained the following:
The main message this year for Microsoft's TechEd conference was "Cloud-First, Mobile-First". As part of IT transformation, Cloud strategy is the key for Microsoft's customers. In Microsoft's terms, Cloud strategies will come with a variety of questions and decisions in order to achieve a successful deployment: build your HA and DR plans, management, security and education for your technical teams.
Cloud is the understood enabler for all things Mobile. Therefore, Cloud-First, because Mobile is the most important aspect of an individual user's work style. A mobile user needs a broad array of devices in order to accomplish the work-life balance he/she needs, and those devices need Cloud in order to be of value to their owners. Educating customers came in two basic scenarios: 1) IT Infrastructure, and 2) End-User Capabilities. Microsoft's curriculum for TechEd2014 was specifically tailored to IT Professionals who's main purpose was to meet the needs of a mobile workforce.
We categorized our findings into the four following topics:
- Azure Public Cloud Services including Office 365: The Keynotes, breakout sessions, everything... was about Azure Cloud; Microsoft delivered a very clear cloud category definition: Public In-Cloud (Azure) and SP/On-Prem (Windows Azure Pack, System Center, Windows Server 2014/Hyper-V) which formed the whole hybrid cloud diagram from MS's cloud vision.
- New Azure product offerings are coming to market every quarter: Azure Remote App, Azure Site Recovery, Azure Express Route, Azure Compute-intensive "A8" & "A9" VMs that will provide a variety of tools to integrate, manage and orchestrate customer applications in the Azure Cloud. According to Microsoft, more than 57% of Fortune 500 companies are using Azure, but at this point we don't know which kind of applications or development are using in this environment.
- Microsoft Public Cloud has been approved by European Union for: Office 365, Azure, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Windows Intune.
- VM Mobility with Live Migration SMB Live Migration, Live Storage Migration and Share Nothing Live Migration
- Scaling for Mission Critical Workloads
Highest level of performance for Microsoft workloads
SAP is certified to run on Azure
- Oracle software supported on Windows server Hyper-V and Azure!
- SharePoint Server SP1 and SharePoint Online offer a Hybrid Cloud Solution for your organization, using Single-On feature providing Directory Synchronization in the entire SharePoint solution.
- Visual Studio is the central focus for all mobile development efforts: Microsoft is embracing choice (as is EMC). While not using the "Agile" label for their developer framework, clearly Microsoft is skillfully responding to the radically improved development process that an Agile development framework offers. Microsoft is leading with "choice" by allowing .NET developers a broad range of target devices, languages, and browser types. In fact, the only choice Microsoft doesn't offer is whether or not you can use Visual Studio to create your applications in or Windows Server to run your applications on! Microsoft has worked arduously over the past fifteen years to build-out its .NET development framework to include a broad array of mobile device targets and multiple browser types and vendors. You can even write in a variety of languages ranging from C to Ruby.
- Windows Server and the Microsoft Cloud OS: Centered deeply on the capabilities of System Center to achieve the full potency of Windows and Azure, Microsoft presented a rich and functional operational plan to achieve the needs of a mobile workforce.
- SQL Server: Microsoft SQL Server 2014 bringing new functionalities delivering better performance in memory built-in Hybrid cloud solutions. Lots of interest and emphasis in Business Intelligence and Big Data; how to discover, manage, process and display data. Power BI and analytics managed by Office 365 for critical business applications. The combination of SQL Always-On replica and Hyper-V Replica will cover different DR scenarios between SQL On premises and Azure. At this time they have to work to improve performance and reduce times in the replication, but the solution is very interesting.
So what about "the competition"?
This year VMware was on the Expo Floor — even awarded TOP VIRTUALIZATION at the show. And some breakout sessions had comparison slides, talking about the advantage of Hyper/System Center against VMware/vSphere/vCenter/vCAC, more about specs and features. Azure Cloud is a much grander diagram when compared against VMware's cloud capabilities (on-prem only — no comparison were made to vCHS!). Azure is now becoming the key differentiator when talking about "the competition". Example here is the MSFT storage solution (storsimple + Azure), the DR solution (MASR to Azure), etc. To no one's surprise, very little was said about AWS or Google. It was very clear that Microsoft Azure, backed by the capabilities of System Center, was an entirely different ballpark.
Unexpected Lessons from TechEd:
- Microsoft is openly supporting all device types — they have given-up on attempting to rule the world by having Windows on every device and in every home. With developer tools supporting every viable mobile device, Chrome, Mozilla/Firefox, even Safari, Microsoft he's learned that it will not win a world dominated by it's own products.
- EMC did not have a booth on the Expo Floor; customers were confused by this. When told that EMC had enlisted its Federation-member, VMware, to exhibit on the Expo Floor, this confused them more… the fact is, Microsoft is an important partner to EMC. The two companies need to figure out how they will support each other going forward. Clearly, many of Microsoft's customers depend on EMC's broad, dare I say VAST, portfolio of products ranging from Isilon Scale-Out File Services, to VMAX's "never make data unavailable" legacy, to fully-integrated management tools such as EMC Storage Integrator for Windows, to VSPEX reference Architectures allowing IT Pros to build soup-to-nuts Azure-connected Hybrid Clouds in about seven days: EMC offers choice and trust. So -- next year, who knows what we'll see. We MIGHT see VCE on the Expo Floor with a VLBOCK running the entire Microsoft stack -- connected to Azure!
- Cloud and Mobile are one thing. With a customer-base that demands to be "constantly productive", Microsoft has determined a licensing model that allows them to bring Office to nearly any device. iPads can now run Office, Web browsers can run Office, even Android phones run Office. Microsoft has learned that Office is what people want to create documents with and it has learned that the device/mobility is more important than Office. The value-add for any device is the ability to become productive with it — Office makes that happen.
- This year, MSFT focused on step-by-step deployment/migration to MS cloud. Many sessions described exact deployment steps; very straight forward. Microsoft introduced several key advantages regarding the choice of Azure Cloud: Azure Active Directory, Application development and deployment considerations; Azure RemoteApp (Desktop as a service) from mobility perspective; Microsoft Azure Site Recovery and other features for security, etc. The most important thing was that Microsoft had introduced its huge investment of the Azure Data Center all over the world, this is amazing data, showing MSFT's ambition on its Cloud strategy and this investment is very convinced when selling Azure to customer.
- Lastly, it is difficult to ignore how much "bashing of SAN" went on during the week. It wasn't until the second day that we managed to get through an entire session without the speaker making a leading comment about the "high cost" of SAN. There was even one session where the presenter said "...and if that is on EMC SAN, it is going to be pretty costly." Microsoft is attempting to teach its customers what Software Defined Storage is. Microsoft is has usurped the term "Software Defined". It is attempting to teach its customers that Microsoft's definition of Software Defined is complete and accurate. The fact is that Microsoft is teaching customers that reducing the length and complexity of the IO path will increase performance and drive costs out. This lesson has little to do with Software Defined Storage, but we trust that customers already know that fact.
It's been two weeks since TechEd began. In that time we have discussed many aspects of Azure, System Center, and EMC's role in our customers' data centers. Azure is evolving to meet Microsoft's customers' needs. It is an impressive collection of products and services. It is also limited in what in can do, and what it allows its customers accomplish.
EMC leads with choice. Giving customers choice is built into everything EMC does, thinks about, and presents. Simply look at the vast number of storage choices that EMC brings to market, not to mention the number of options available to backup, replicate, restore, control, secure, and expose your data. Look at the number of hypervisors EMC supports. Most customers believe that choice is the reason that EMC is #1. EMC expects CHOICE to dominate our market presence and we look forward to providing choice to you as you transform your data centers into the enabling technologies that your customers and consumers demand.