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Mark Russinovich: How Microsoft is building its cloud future

Eric Knorr | March 4, 2014
In an exclusive interview, Mark Russinovich opens the hood of Windows Azure and discusses how IT should prepare for its inevitable cloud transition

When you get to the kinds of scale that Azure needs to operate at, which is hundreds of thousands — not too far in the future, we'll be at millions of servers — you have to be hands-off. You can't scale if you've got people involved. And the only way you're going to get scale and hands-off is to have as homogeneous an environment as possible.

You can't have 100 different server types operating on 200 different servers, because they all have unique failure characteristics, unique performance characteristics, unique ways to flash the firmware. The more complexity you introduce by supporting that heterogeneity, the more things are going to go wrong in bizarre ways and require humans to get involved. So the Azure Cloud principle is homogeneity as much as possible.

InfoWorld: I think it speaks to the limitations of retrofitting the "cloud" to existing enterprise infrastructure.

Russinovich: That's exactly the problem. And it's the software management as well. The software says the network looks like this, and it's consistent everywhere. The inverse is: I've got this kind of topology here with the router and a few switches over here and this one has these two routers that are in failover, in a mirror configuration with something else going on over here.

InfoWorld: So all roads seem to be leading to the public cloud. You mentioned bringing Office 365 and Dynamics onto the Azure platform. It has struck me for a while now that Microsoft has all the pieces in place to deliver a complete small business solution entirely in the public cloud. When will we start to see that kind of integrated offering coming from Microsoft?

Russinovich: Actually, that's definitely where we want to go -- to sell the integration. One of the most valuable assets that we recognize within Microsoft when it comes to cloud and getting that integration is Windows Azure Active Directory.

The name is not a mistake. It's completely deliberate because Active Directory became the center of on-premises network architecture. And we see Windows Azure Active Directory becoming that for the cloud.

InfoWorld: Right. But nobody is going to use just one cloud, so if you're going to use identity management that goes across all kinds of external cloud applications, you still have to tie it back to Active Directory.

Russinovich: That's right. And actually that's another key aspect related to System Center: the hybrid store. It's not just consistency, but also hybrid. It's connecting the two worlds. So that's also one of the plays of Azure Active Directory. This directory sync protocol that connects with on-premises Active Directory so all the identities and passwords are synced and you can log in using your corporate identity into the cloud -- into, say, Office 365 using your corporate password as if it was your on-premises directory. But you can also federate that with whatever identity provider you want as well.

 

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