Microsoft is a massive company—a behemoth with a lot of inertia, and a lot of bureaucracy in place that make it difficult to adapt quickly. Under Satya Nadella, however, Microsoft is striving to re-invent itself, and—to the extent that it is possible—become more agile. For evidence of Microsoft’s new philosophy, look at how Microsoft is aggressively embracing concepts like open source and DevOps that used to be viewed as pariahs.
I wrote recently about the partnership between Microsoft and Docker. Microsoft added support for Docker containers in the Azure cloud platform within Linux virtual machines earlier this year, but then it upped the ante by announcing that it will support Docker natively in the next version of Windows Server, and that it is working closely with Docker on an open source project to drive development of the Windows engine for Docker.
“An important aspect of this announcement is the noticeable speed we are observing Microsoft move to implement open source technologies,” explained Al Gillen, an analyst with IDC, in a report about the relationship between Microsoft and Docker. “The company appears to be determined not to be left behind as the velocity of open source developer technologies accelerates. The company appears to be willing to integrate competing technologies, or technologies from competing ecosystems at a faster pace and with less hesitation.”
Docker isn’t the only piece of the puzzle, either. Earlier this year Microsoft joined forces with Chef and Puppet Labs, and integrated both of those popular DevOps platforms into Azure as well. Incorporating Chef and Puppet Labs gives IT admins more flexibility to deploy, configure, automate, and manage VMs in Azure.
What the new philosophy really represents is a realization. Nadella’s Microsoft sees the writing on the wall, and understands that it’s a new world. Technologies have changed, and the way companies and individuals use technology has changed, and the days of dominating the tech universe as a virtual monopoly are gone. The two choices facing Microsoft were to either stubbornly cling to its former glory and die a slow, painful death, or adapt and embrace change in order to remain relevant, and continue to play a vital role. Thankfully, it seems Microsoft has chosen the latter path.
What does embracing change look like? Microsoft appears to be taking a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, Microsoft is changing internally to shed some of its entrenched bureaucracy and enable it to function with more agility. It is also striving to keep up with new technologies itself—buying Nokia to bring smartphone manufacturing in house, developing the Surface tablets, rolling out the Microsoft Band wearable health tech, and other initiatives demonstrate that Microsoft is working hard to break free from the shackles of its own past, and find ways to keep up with the changing tech landscape.
The second—and arguably more important—prong is how Microsoft is addressing the new multi-vendor, cross-platform world we live in. Microsoft recognizes that it is not the only game in town, but it has a vested interest in ensuring that customers continue to rely on Microsoft tools no matter what platform they choose. To that end, Microsoft is doing a much better job of offering its own products and services across a wider range of devices and platforms.
The new Microsoft represents a win-win-win scenario. It’s a win for Microsoft because it enables the company to shift and evolve to stay relevant with a rapidly-changing tech landscape. It’s a win for open source and DevOps because companies of all sizes are built around Microsoft operating systems and applications, so incorporating support for open source and DevOps tools exponentially increases the potential customer base. Finally, it’s a win for the customers themselves because they get to maintain their existing investments in a Microsoft infrastructure, while also gaining access to new tools that enable greater automation and efficiency.