Q&A: Microsoft CIO Eats His Own Cloud Dog Food

Before you ever saw Windows Azure, Microsoft CIO Tony Scott had to use it for two years. In this Q&A, he shares what he's learned about cloud moves, security, application portability and how CIOs can prepare.

Mon, November 01, 2010

CIO — A big part of Microsoft (MSFT) CIO Tony Scott's job in Redmond is to personally use all of Microsoft's technologies, including its cloud products. Microsoft types call this "eating your own dog food."

Microsoft IT was an early test environment for cloud-based productivity suite, Office 365, and Windows Azure, the company's platform-as-a-service offering that is the basis for its cloud strategy.

Research firm Gartner said at its Gartner Symposium recently that despite the complexity of Microsoft's cloud services, the company has "one of the most visionary and complete views of the cloud." Late last week at Microsoft's PDC (Professional Developers Conference) event in Redmond, the company stirred the Windows Azure pot by announcing new virtualization capabilities designed to entice developers.

In an interview with CIO.com's Shane O'Neill, Microsoft's Scott discussed some best practices for CIOs that he's learned from "dogfooding" Windows Azure. He also shares his views on how the cloud will change the financing of business projects and how CIOs can prepare accordingly.

CIO.com recently published a story about cloud adoption that cited a survey where the number one reason for not moving to the cloud was "Don't Understand Cloud Benefits." How is Microsoft cutting through the noise and confusion to clearly outline for CIOs how a cloud model will help their organization?

Tony Scott
Microsoft CIO Tony Scott.

In my experience CIOs are practical folks, with a healthy level of skepticism about the "next big thing." Conceptually, they all get the benefits of the cloud. But there's a lot of uncertainty out there about how to get started. It can be a little bit intimidating.

Our role at Microsoft IT is to dogfood all our own products, so we started by moving some basic apps to Azure. This was two years ago, before the product was released to the public. We were just getting our feet wet, and I saw some healthy skepticism at the time even in my own organization.

But once you dip your toe in, the learning process begins. We saw an improvement in the quality of the apps we moved to Azure. One example is MS.com, which we moved to Azure and were able to scale the services based on demand versus based on peak capacity. We really saw the advantages of a standardized cloud platform versus fine-tuning every server to each application.

A great example of this is our Microsoft Giving Campaign tool, which we use for internal fund-raising for non-profit organizations. That app gets most of its usage once a year in October during the Giving Campaign. The rest of the year it sits idle. That is a perfect application for the cloud. The new Giving Campaign tool was built on Azure and on the last two days of the campaign, where we often see the peak loads, it never slowed down and the results were phenomenal. We raised twice as much money as we had in any prior year.

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