Microsoft has had a busy few weeks.
Since the end of February, Microsoft has unveiled the HoloLens 2 augmented reality headset, the Azure Sentinel cloud computing security service, and Game Stack, a unified set of tools to help game developers build with Microsoft Azure.
These are all very disparate businesses, spanning the nascent market for augmented reality tech, the cybersecurity field, and video game development. What they have in common, Microsoft Executive VP and overall enterprise boss Scott Guthrie tells Business Insider, is that they represent the company taking everything it’s learned over the last several years, packaging it up, and offering it to customers as an easy way to do hard things.
“We’ve focused a lot on how do we provide kind of a comprehensive cloud that we think really appeals to all those different audiences in unique ways,” says Guthrie. The ultimate goal, he says, is to think beyond just the technology, and “really think through that end-to-end enterprise customer experience, and really look at how you build solutions out of that tech that really move the needle on a business.”
Guthrie says that this approach also distinguishes Microsoft Azure from Amazon Web Services, the leading player in the cloud wars. Microsoft has a breadth of solutions and expertise that nobody else can match, says Guthrie.
“One of the … big differentiators, I think, really separates the Microsoft Cloud from, say, AWS is the fact that we’re not just an infrastructure cloud and an application and data cloud, which we do have with Azure, but also the ability for our customers to integrate Office 365 and Dynamics 365,” he says.
For an example, look at HoloLens, says Guthrie. Beyond just the headset, Guthrie notes that Microsoft offers a wide range of augmented reality (Microsoft calls it “mixed reality”) services to developers, and also brings apps like Microsoft Teams or Dynamics 365 to the platform so it can integrate with the software customers are already using — plus Microsoft’s cybersecurity tech on top.
“That ability to kind of integrate Azure, HoloLens, Dynamics, and Office together is what really gets enterprises excited, because now they have much more of a solution, and a pluggable, flexible one that they can extend to their unique requirements, but which have a whole bunch of pre-built building blocks all wrapped up with a common security model and management model that they can trust,” says Guthrie.
Azure Sentinel, for another example, takes a lot of Microsoft’s existing AI technology and applies it to security — so customers can sift through the massive amounts of data that their systems generate each day, and finds the events that signal what could be a security vulnerability, or worse. It will compete with offerings from companies including Alphabet’s Chronicle.
Notably, Azure Sentinel was first used and refined by Microsoft’s own security operations team, says Julia White, corporate VP of Microsoft Azure marketing, which she describes as “one of the most advanced in the world.”
“So we’re like, if we can meet their needs? Then we know we have something,” says White. “And so they were kind of ‘patient zero’ in our development of that.”
It’s the same story for Game Stack. It runs on Microsoft Azure technology — PlayFab, a startup that Microsoft bought in 2018, forms a key pillar of the service, helping developers power their games on Azure. However, Guthrie says that he’s worked with Phil Spencer, executive VP of Microsoft gaming, to figure out what exactly developers need, and how to better serve them.
On a separate, but related note, Guthrie says that his cloud organization is working closely with Spencer’s gaming team to bring Project xCloud, Microsoft’s ambitious video game streaming service, to life. To Guthrie’s mind, it’s reflective of how Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has brought the whole company closer together.
“It really is I think a testament to just how far the company culture has evolved that we have that type of collaboration happening, not because Satya says or because it’s some top-down edict, but really I think we’re getting every employee to really lean in and realize it is one Microsoft,” says Guthrie.
And to go back to Microsoft’s bevy of announcements, White says that it’s reflective of how Microsoft will keep pushing into more specialized markets by working with customers and figuring out what they need.
“That’s kind of the great thing about cloud development now too is you can be incredibly agile, where we’re constantly taking the feedback, iterating, learning, taking the feedback and making the services better over time,” says White.