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Why this top cloud analyst moved to Microsoft

During the last six years at Forrester Research, I helped enterprise IT and technology leaders understand the cloud movement At the beginning of this year I decided to take our relationship to the next level.

During the last six years at Forrester Research, I helped enterprise IT and technology leaders understand the cloud movement — what makes it different and how it could change your businesses and yourselves. It was an incredible opportunity to be at the forefront of a major market disruption, and the impact on enterprise IT organizations has thus far been just that – disruptive.

At the beginning of this year I decided to take our relationship to the next level. Rather than simply recommend and advise you on how you could best take advantage of cloud platforms, I decided to take a more active role in helping to drive the change, by joining Microsoft’s Cloud + Enterprise engineering team.

As the chief strategist for this division, it is my responsibility to help you figure out how best to blend your on-premise investments with new advances in the cloud. And, in turn, to help Microsoft better understand your needs and respond better through our products, services and strategic initiatives.

But why Microsoft? It’s a simple and very worthwhile question to ask. So let me explain why it was the best possible move for both me and you.

The past decade was essentially the formative period for cloud platforms and services. As such, it was characterized by strong adoption by startups and business units, led by DevOps teams. As with most new technologies in their formative years, the onus for success with these tools was largely on the customer, and because so much uniquely new value could be derived, they were willing to do the work (and put up with the rough edges) to get the outcomes.

Consequently, organizations looking for more enterprise-grade solutions and more hardened and proven products tended to downplay its significance, block its use within their walls and push their alternatives (I coined the term cloudwashing in 2008 to cover much of these alternative efforts). But in times of digital disruption, a new value point is formed, and it is not one that traditional products and solutions can match, nor can they adapt and subsume these technologies at the pace that the new disruptors are adding more value and maturing to meet corporate needs. The cloud computing market crossed over into this phase last year.

As noted by my former Forrester colleague, JP Garbani, all disruptive technologies go through three phases of adoption[1]:”

Exploration – A period of intense technological evaluation and experimentation, and search for consistent patterns and best practices for its use.

1. Rationalization – Where the patterns of consumption begin to settle in and thus more widespread use begins.

2. Optimization – Where well-established technologies shift from being evaluated on their differentiated merits to value extraction. When cost/value ratios become the dominant factor and cost reduction kicks in.

In 2014, cloud platforms started to shift to the Rationalization phase. At Forrester, we started to see IT departments stop fighting against public clouds and start to determine where it, at least initially, fit into their portfolios. We started seeing more widespread use of the platforms by business units and new product groups. Along with this, we started seeing a growing need for integration between existing on-premise resources with cloud services. This need is currently driving up demand for WAN connectivity options (of which Microsoft Azure is the market leader), cloud service consistency between resource pools and integration between the tools used to manage resources on both sides of the connection.

We also started seeing shifts in the makeup of cloud consumers. New developers are now coming onto the cloud teams, and they are not the DevOps pros who want to build everything themselves. The new developers want to create new solutions quickly and concentrate on their code. Having to configure IaaS resources, understand virtual network constructs and make their apps scale, simply gets in the way of delivering new customer value. Thus they are seeking higher-level cloud services, and partnership with organizations who can manage the stuff below their code for them. And this second wave of developers are easily 10x larger than the community who brought clouds to their current market position. This doesn’t mean a universal shift to Platform as a Service but a blending of IaaS and PaaS that lets DevOps and coders work cleanly together to drive your companies forward.

Looking at the leading cloud platform vendors in this new light made it clear to me which vendors stood to benefit the most from the Rationalization phase.

Microsoft’s approach provides more choice and flexibility with the cloud than any other provider, and we are truly differentiated through our hyper-scale public cloud infrastructure, our hybrid cloud approach and enterprise grade capabilities. Microsoft continues to make a large investment in blending on-premise services and technologies with our public cloud, as evidenced earlier this month with our announcement of Azure Stack.

Microsoft also has substantial investments in abstracted services aimed at coders, (Azure App Service, AzureML, Service Fabric), that blend easily with our IaaS resources and services. We have a broad collection of SaaS solutions, both enterprise and consumer. And are the only major cloud provider with tools investments that help bring development, database and infrastructure management teams into the cloud era (Team Foundation Server-to-Visual Studio Online, SQL Server-to-Azure SQL DB and System Center-to-Operations Management Suite).

In addition, Microsoft has far more relationships with third party service providers, hosters and systems integrators who can help your organizations make the cloud journey at the pace that is right for you.

Thus, via regular blog posts about our cloud and enterprise strategy, and through my direct engagements with you – our customers and potential customers – I intend to help you make the most of your cloud investments.

The journey won’t always be easy – but if done right, it will definitely be worth it. And I hope you will give us the chance to show you why we are best positioned to help you gain the most from cloud computing.

[1] Forrester Research, Transform Infrastructure And Operations For The Future Technology Management Cycle, JP Garbani, April 8, 2015