Microsoft Global High Tech Summit 2011: Living with the New Normal

Investment made in cloud services, as reported by IT decision makers in Microsoft's "Cloud as an Engine of Growth" study, October 2010.

Investment made in cloud services, as reported by IT decision makers in Microsoft's "Cloud as an Engine of Growth" study, October 2010.

Savings from cloud services, as reported by IT decision makers in manufacturing in Microsoft's "Cloud as an Engine of Growth" study, October 2010.

Savings from cloud services, as reported by IT decision makers in manufacturing in Microsoft's "Cloud as an Engine of Growth" study, October 2010.

Drew Gude, Microsoft's director of U.S. High Tech & Electronics, reflects on the recent Global High Tech Summit (February 10, 2011, Santa Clara, California)

Drew Gude, Microsoft's director of U.S. High Tech & Electronics, reflects on the recent Global High Tech Summit (February 10, 2011, Santa Clara, California)

Somewhere along the line, the acronym IT became more closely associated with Infrastructure than Information. That’s why the proverbial IT Department comes to mean in-house network experts who keep our servers and computers running without hiccups. At Microsoft Global High Tech Summit 2011 (February 10, Santa Clara, California), keynote speaker Nicholas Carr — author of The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google; Does IT Matter; and The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains — noted another big switch taking place in IT, in both infrastructure and information management. It’s the switch to cloud computing. In his words, “The cloud is central to all elements of the new normal.”

Describing the topic at the Summit, Microsoft writes, “Managing in the ‘New Normal’ is very different as its foundations are built on new levels of information access, applications and computing services paradigms … Information technology will play a critical role in providing the necessary business infrastructure, whether hosted on-premises or via the cloud, to facilitate business agility, insight, and global collaboration …”

Drew Gude, Microsoft’s director, U.S. High Tech & Electronics, noted,”Microsoft has been offering cloud services for more than a decade now.” Though best known for its ubiquitous Windows OS across the PC market, Microsoft also offers Xbox LIVE, a subscription service that allows Xbox console owners to stream movies and play online games; Windows Azure, a development platform for building cloud-hosted applications; and Microsoft Dynamics CRM (customer relationship management) online.

Microsoft recently published the results of its study called “Cloud Computing as an Engine of Growth.” According to the IT decision makers polled, 64% in manufacturing invested in cloud services, spending anywhere from under $1,000 to more than $1 million. The other 36% chose to invest none. Of those who had invested in cloud services, 59% reported saving money, from less than $1000 to more than $1 million. Therefore, among IT decision makers in manufacturing, the glass is either half empty or half full for the promise of cloud-hosted services (well, nearly half empty but a little more than half full, as these stats suggests).

For many engineers and designers, a dedicated desktop or mobile machine powerful enough to run 3D modeling and analysis software remains the core of their professional life. So what does the rise of cloud computing mean to them? Gude said, “There’s no doubt that the powerful local experience of an EDA product — a semiconductor, for instance — will remain a constant, valuable experience for many years to come … You need an incredible amount of processing power for some processes. Imagine if this engineer were able to push some of that workload up to an elastic cloud, if you will — like a service that can run that [process] very quickly in parallel for them to get the results back.” That’s the vision Microsoft entertains and hopes to support for the foreseeable future.

Gude did a survey of the Summit attendees to gauge the health of the high tech sector. “This year, we asked the audience, ‘How much do you think your business will grow in 2011?’ We had nearly 100 responses. Over 50% of those responses say ‘Greater than 10%.’ We’re very excited to see the industry projecting double-digit growth … We’re encouraging folks to still focus on innovation, customer intimacy, brand recognition, and operational excellence …”

For more on the results of Microsoft’s cloud computing study, read the previous blog post, “Story Ideas Wanted on Cloud Computing,” February 3, 2011.

To read Microsoft’s cloud-computing study results, go here.

To participate in Desktop Engineering‘s brainstorm on cloud-computing story ideas go to:

For more on the new normal, the impact of cloud-hosted services, and others, listen to my interview with Drew Gude in full below:

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