In a letter to Microsoft employees last June, CEO Satya Nadella told them they “live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world,” where streams of data are constantly in the background.
The company wants to seize the opportunity to hook up with all those Internet-connected devices. Key to this vision, Microsoft is turning to the cloud to provide consumers with more identity authentication options and help organizations embrace a bring-your–own-device (BYOD) policy.
It’s the next logical step as Microsoft tracks two global trends that are changing not only the way companies work, but also the kinds of IT investments they’re making.
“The fist big trend obviously is the move to cloud computing,” says Alex Simons, director of program management for Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory. “People are moving workloads that they previously used on premise. But there’s also a lot of what I’d call unplanned movement to the cloud where different departments are just kind of whipping out their credit cards and buying SaaS applications for their use without involving central IT at all.”
The second trend is the wave of people using a wider variety of devices to do work from anywhere. “They still use their PCs, but they’ll also use their iPhones, iPads, Android phones, Windows phones and a whole bunch of things to get work done,” Simons says. They expect to be able to do it all in a way that has the same ease of use that great cloud services in the consumer space have.”
Blame Facebook and other social media sites for setting higher expectations for users, particularly millennials. “They’re looking for that same set of capabilities – mobile devices talking to cloud services that they can get to from anywhere in the world, any time of day or night,” Simons says.
Microsoft now optimizes its software for users getting their work done on a phone at Starbucks. The company anticipates that 2 billion devices will be running its smart software next year. “Now a big chunk of those are PCs, and that’s kind of exciting, but an even bigger chunk of those are smart phones and tablets and things like that,” Simons say. “So for us, it’s a big new exciting opportunity to be able to expand the value that we provide in the directory space, for instance, out to a new world of smart devices.”
Simons says mobile and the cloud need each other. It’s not an either-or proposition. “The majority of Microsoft’s employees, partners and customers will be using mobile devices, and they’ll be using them to access cloud services,” Simons says.
But people lose things.
“If you accidentally leave the iPad in the cab, you need to know that you can quickly turn off access to it and make sure that all the documents on it are secure,” Simons says. “And if somebody picks it up and starts using it, you have to ensure that there’s no way for them to get into your corporate network.”
Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite, a cloud solution for BYOD policies, contains a package of services to handle such a situation. It covers hybrid identity management, mobile device and PC management as well as information protection.
“We are giving IT directors and chief security officers a new set of cloud services and tools,” Simons says. “I think of it as the new control panel for the Internet, where IT can once again get in control and know that things are secure while still taking advantage of this amazing opportunity of agile cloud services and anywhere, anytime access on any device.