It comes as news to nobody that the IT industry is rocketing through a massive transformation, with every Marketing Exec and his dog bouncing around phrases like ‘Cloud Computing’, ‘Big Data’ and ‘Internet of Things’ as if they’re going out of fashion. However, Cloud has been around longer than you might think. Microsoft announced its Azure platform over four years ago and Amazon Web Services’ infrastructure offering has been around even longer. This maturity has also been recognised by Gartner, whose latest Hype Cycle recognises that cloud will hit mainstream adoption within the next couple of years. So despite appearances, there is clearly substance beyond the bumph.

To really gain an advantage for your business, it’s important to recognise these trends and plan them into your IT strategy before competitors. But how does one translate terms as wide-reaching (read: vague) as ‘Cloud’ into something that makes sense to those who hold the purse strings? Try considering the context within which they could apply to your place of work.

For example, far from being a fancy new name for outsourcing, Cloud could be the technology that enables the Marketing department to run a successful campaign, the Sales team to close deals on the move or the Board of Directors to sign off on a new office. The IT Department can and should be seen as a strategic partner in these decisions, providing services that help the business to expand and improve. This might manifest itself as a scalable website to handle the extra traffic from Marketing, mobile access to contract documents that help the Sales folks close and flexible estate management to easily provision machines in a new location for the Board’s grand expansion plans.

Mike Schutz, General Manager of Server & Tools Product MarketingThe “mobile first, cloud first” rhetoric championed by Satya Nadella during the first few months of his tenure as Microsoft CEO only serves to reinforce the fact that these trends are here to stay. We caught up with Mike Schutz, the General Manager of Product Marketing in the Server & Tools Marketing group, for a chat about Microsoft’s Cloud vision, what’s being done to help IT Professionals benefit from this new flexible form of computing and the first steps they should take. Here’s what he had to say.

 

When you speak to customers about Microsoft and Cloud, what is it you’ve been talking about?

What I focus on is our Cloud OS vision for delivering a unified platform for the modern business, and how our products, like Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Intune, help customers move towards cloud computing on their own terms.

The role of the IT Department is changing massively. How do you see the transformation that the IT industry is going through impacting IT Professionals in the future, and what is Microsoft doing to help?

IT is going through a tremendous transformation, but we see this as an awesome time to be in the IT industry, and specifically to be an IT Professional. The role is changing – we see in the future that IT becomes a more valuable asset to the business, because organisations have more choices with respect to cloud computing and they need more guidance from IT as to how to deploy it.

We see IT Professionals moving towards being cloud brokers, so we’re investing in capabilities for IT Professionals to grow their careers through this transformation. We really think they’ll be more valuable to the organisation, and even more valuable to the industry going forward.

Mike Schutz presenting at IP EXPO 2013 in London
Mike presenting the keynote session at IP EXPO 2013 in London.

What should the decision makers within organisations be doing to get started on their journey to the cloud? In particular, how can those in some of the most challenging segments such as the Public Sector take their first steps?

We talk to a lot of public sector customers, and they’re trying to find out what the first step to cloud computing would be. As we talk to them, our guidance is really just take the first step! Find an application that you can put in the public cloud, learn about it and really just get your feet wet so that you can understand the benefits of the public cloud and then become more comfortable moving more and more applications.

As well as Cloud, BYOD and Consumerisation are also increasingly prominent trends. How are Microsoft helping Enterprises embrace these areas?

Consumerisation of IT and Mobility are among the top trends that are on the minds of our Enterprise CIOs and customers. We’re really excited to talk about products like Windows Intune, which can help customers manage ‘Bring Your Own Device’ models with tablets and PCs, as well as handheld mobile devices running multiple platforms, of course Windows, but Android and iOS devices too. So we can help end users be more productive, but IT can also retain control of which applications are accessed by which users on specific devices.

What are the top 3 things you’re most excited about in Windows Server and System Center 2012 R2?

The R2 wave of products really are an exciting set of products that we’re bringing to market. If I had to pick three things, I’d focus on the Windows Intune release that really brings BYOD and mobile device management to the forefront and integrates with System Center 2012.

I’d also focus on the storage enhancements in Server 2012 R2, bringing industry-standard storage together with tiered storage, and focusing on Software-Defined Networking, so the power of virtualisation can really be brought into the network. I think customers can really benefit from all three of these areas.

Video Case Study - Aston Martin 'accelerating' (sorry) their business using Microsoft Cloud products.

Aston Martin, a key reference customer, are a great success story for Microsoft. What were the key things you learnt from building this relationship?

Aston Martin have been a great customer and partner for us over the last couple of years. They’ve really embarked on a journey to be a cutting edge IT Department, as well as an organisation that’s laser-focused on high quality and performance with their cars. They’re celebrating their 100th Anniversary, so they’ve been around for a very long time, and yet from an IT perspective they really are focused on being at the cutting edge.

By partnering with us and taking advantage of some of our products like Windows Intune, Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Azure, they really have been able to add more value to the business. This isn’t just from the point of view of producing cars, but also how they sell them and how they market to their customers. It’s really been eye-opening for us to see how well products and technologies that we’re developing can help benefit a business, when coupled with an IT Department that’s committed to helping transform the way that they deliver services to their business.

To find out more about Microsoft's various Cloud offerings, head on over to the Microsoft Cloud landing page.

What did you think of this article? Have you started to see 'The Cloud' gain traction within your IT Department, or do people still see it as the board's favourite buzzword? Let us know the good, the bad and the ugly in the comments, or @TechNetUK on Twitter.