This week, Microsoft Azure announced that Azure Government was awarded High Impact Provisional Authority to Operate (P-ATO), the highest level of accreditation for the Federal government’s FedRAMP certification for cloud providers. The high impact level certification allows Azure to handle workloads that, if breached, could have a severely adverse effect on “organizational operations or, assets, or individuals.” In addition, Microsoft Azure is on track to obtain DISA Impact Level 4 Authorization in the near future and also announced the opening of two new regions for the Department of Defense, namely, U.S. DoD East and U.S. DoD West. Azure also revealed details of its support for requirements elaborated by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) with respect to database security and encryption. Taken together, this week’s announcements illustrate the depth of Microsoft’s investments in meeting rigorous Federal government cloud computing requirements and standards and its continued interest in expanding its footprint in the government cloud computing space. Read more about Azure’s support for Federal government cloud computing here.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise recently announced the general availability of Haven OnDemand, a cloud-based machine learning platform capable of performing deep learning analytics on a variety of media including text, audio, image, social, web and video. The ability of Haven OnDemand to perform advanced analytics on structured and unstructured data, in conjunction with its machine learning capabilities, empowers developers to build recommendation engines, create facial recognition applications, detect fraud and build predictive models to forecast the behavior of natural and socio-cultural phenomena. Hosted on Microsoft Azure, the HPE Haven OnDemand boasts 12,750 registered developers and offers 60 APIs and services per the agreement signed between Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprise in December 2015. Importantly, the commercial availability of HPE Haven OnDemand on the Azure platform illustrates the ascendancy of Azure as a computing platform for the enterprise. HPE Haven OnDemand aims to democratize access to machine learning analytics by giving developers access to many of the algorithms and tools used by data scientists to build predictive models across structured and unstructured data. That Azure hosts HPE Haven OnDemand gives developers the added boon of the performance and scalability of the Azure platform, thereby allowing users of the platform to focus on building and iteratively refining analytics in contrast to managing the infrastructure required for their execution.
The key point about Microsoft’s earnings call from last week lies neither in the impressive numbers about growth in operating income and net income or earnings per share, but in the preliminary success of Nadella’s strategy to re-focus Microsoft around cloud technologies and cloud services. The earnings report revealed that revenue from intelligent cloud grew 5% to $6.3B with growth of 10% in cloud services revenue and products related to servers. Azure revenue increased by 140% in conjunction with a threefold growth of Azure premium services revenue, year over year. More than a third of Fortune 500 customers now use Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility suite, which reported year over year growth by a factor of three. To put things in perspective, Intelligent cloud revenue of $6.3B comes close to the $6.7B in revenue that the company reported for Productivity and Business Processes spanning Office 365 and Dynamics revenue. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s annualized revenue run rate is now greater than $9.4B and well on track to achieve the company’s target of $20B. The company’s cloud revenue run rate of $9.4B represents a brisk increase from the $8.2B figure disclosed at its previous earnings call for the quarter ending October 31, 2015. Windows 10 now runs on more than 200 million devices, a sharp increase from the previous quarter that had reported Windows 10 usage on 110 million devices. All this means that, in the space of two years, Nadella has transformed a sluggish company that seemed to be reaching the end of its life span as a tech behemoth qua dinosaur into a company bursting with life, creativity, energy and ideas. The unified simplicity of Nadella’s cloud-first mission has caught the eye of investors and positioned the company to go head to head with Amazon Web Services for ownership of the enterprise cloud services space and cloud market share more generally. Expect more innovation to burst out of Microsoft in upcoming months as it builds on its release of the Azure Stack, consolidates on its release of Windows 10 and continues to catch the attention of the enterprise and consumers alike.
Microsoft Philanthropies recently announced a commitment to donate $1B in “cloud computing resources” to universities and non-profit organizations over the next three years. Microsoft’s pledge of $1B in philanthropy toward the global expansion of cloud computing testifies to CEO Satya Nadella’s vision to ensure the realization of “the public cloud for the public good,” as noted in a blog post. Microsoft Philanthropies aims to donate cloud computing resources to 70,000 non-profits, 900 researchers and over 20 communities in more than 15 countries. In the case of non-profit organizations, Microsoft will donate access to its public cloud, Microsoft Azure, its Enterprise Mobility Suite and CRM online in addition to an expanded roll-out of the Office 365 Nonprofit program. Meanwhile, Microsoft plans to expand access to the Microsoft Azure for Research program which delivers Azure computing resources to help university faculty conduct their research. With respect to the goal of expanding cloud computing access for communities across the world that lack internet connectivity, Microsoft Philanthropies will build on its TV White Spaces project to deliver connectivity for communities in rural Kenya and the Philippines. This three pronged approach on the part of Microsoft Philanthropies to donate cloud computing resources to non-profit organizations, universities and local communities that lack connectivity complements Nadella’s interest in using the public cloud to help governments and NGOs more effectively execute their operational and strategic goals. In his blog post, Nadella cites the implementation of a cloud-based platform for digitizing electronic medical records regarding cataracts in India and the use of cloud-based data to facilitate the disbursement of compensatory payments to earthquake victims in Nepal as examples of the way in which the public cloud can promote the public good. Nadella, here, has hit the nail on the head with respect to the potentialities of the public cloud which, in conjunction with big data technologies, offers limitless opportunities to transform communities and public life, more generally, for the better. The obvious question now is the extent to which Microsoft Philanthropies can identify organizations to seek out its funding to enable the public cloud to contribute to the public good and develop an impressive roster of organizations, researchers and communities that it can showcase as evidence of the power of the public cloud to change the world.
In December, Microsoft acquired Metanautix, a Palo Alto startup founded by Google and Facebook veterans Theo Vassilakis and Toli Lerios that emerged from stealth with $7M in Series A funding in August 2014. Metanautix delivers a SQL interface for querying relational and non-relational datasets that dispenses with the need to integrate disparate data sources. Metanautix’s Quest platform brings the power of distributed computing alongside the simplicity of SQL to enable companies to concurrently ingest, analyze and visualize data from multiple datasets and data repositories. Metanautix’s platform shortens the time between data acquisition and data analysis by helping analysts understand the topography of the data within scope and subsequently enabling SQL queries to run against Hadoop, NoSQL and relational databases. The acquisition bolsters Microsoft’s portfolio of big data analytic tools and promises to fit into Microsoft’s SQL Server and Cortana Analytics Suite. Importantly, Microsoft’s acquisition of Metanautix illustrates the evolution of the concept of the traditional enterprise data warehouse given that platforms such as Metanautix empower customers to obtain 360 degree analytics by means of distributed, SQL-based queries, analytics and data visualizations, without the requirement to integrate and house all data within a single, unified warehouse or repository.