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Even Microsoft's CIO struggles with cloud, consumer devices

Nancy Gohring | Feb. 23, 2011
He may run IT for one of the best-known names in technology, but even Microsoft's CIO is grappling with new technology challenges like moving to the cloud and handling consumer electronics that employees bring to work.

FRAMINGHAM 23 FEBRUARY 2011 - He may run IT for one of the best-known names in technology, but even Microsoft's CIO is grappling with new technology challenges like moving to the cloud and handling consumer electronics that employees bring to work.

Tony Scott, CIO for Microsoft, spoke Wednesday to public sector CIOs gathered at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

His team manages over 200,000 Windows 7 and Office 2010 clients, 764,000 SharePoint sites, 1 million devices, 70,000 monthly Live Meeting sessions and the Microsoft.com website, which attracts 1.7 billion hits per day.

"We are Microsoft's first and best customer," he said. "That's a role we take seriously."

One of the first functions that he moved to the cloud was Microsoft.com, which he said is the world's largest corporate website. That is now running on Azure, Microsoft's platform-as-a-service offering.

He's in the process of moving Microsoft's volume licensing system to the cloud. That's the system that company CEO Steve Ballmer told Scott, during his job interview, is the most important system at Microsoft.

It's also the system that his IT staff ranked toward the bottom when asked about the health, supportability and flexibility of all the company's systems, he said.

"It's probably the single biggest system in Microsoft in terms of transactions and important company information," he said. The transition to running it in the cloud is well under way, he said.

Like most companies, Microsoft has struggled with some of the issues that moving to the cloud creates. Scott recommends, for example, making sure that CFOs are well informed.

"We've found awareness is half the battle," he said. CIOs should describe to CFOs exactly what moving to the cloud will cost and what kinds of cost spikes might occur potentially at different times of the year. At Microsoft, that was good enough to satisfy his CFO's need for predictability, Scott said.

In addition, using cloud services has different implications for chargebacks. At Microsoft, Scott forced all costs into two different categories. One includes costs that can be directly attributed to and thus charged to a business unit.

The other includes things like storage or network bandwidth that's too difficult or expensive to figure out who is consuming how much. Microsoft simply spreads those costs across the company evenly. IT's role is to make sure those services are bought and used efficiently, he said.

Scott, like many CIOs, has also come up with new policies to handle the kinds of consumer devices that workers are bringing into the office. Rather than make a decision based on individual devices, Microsoft has developed a framework that determines what capabilities a device must have in order for users to do certain things on it, he said.

 

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