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Microsoft betting big on the cloud and putting money on its strategy

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is championing the company's cloud-first, mobile-first philosophy this week and stressing the compatibility of Azure cloud servers.

During the Microsoft Cloud Briefing event held Oct. 20, Microsoft reviewed a hardware partnership with Dell in which the pair of tech companies will deliver cloud deployment kits for organizations still not ready to fully embrace offsite hosting services.

"We are well and truly in this mobile-first, cloud-first world," stated Satya Nadella. "[Our focus is on] the mobility of the individual experience more than just the device."

The so-called "cloud in a box" will offer customers ready-to-go servers operating on Windows Azure, Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012. Right now, pricing for the prebuilt cloud systems remains unknown.

While Dell is Microsoft Azure's only hardware partner, Nadella stressed the versatility and compatibility of his company's cloud platform. It plays nicely with Google's Cloud and scales to address iPhones, he notes.

"We are not building our hyper-scale cloud in Azure in isolation," Nadella stated. "We are building to compose well with other clouds."

Shedding a little sunlight on the power inside Microsoft's cloud servers, Mark Russinovich, Azure chief technical officer, talked about how Azure's massive virtual machines (VM) are provisioned with up to 6.5 TB of solid state drive (SSD) space to address the bulky data requirements of apps requiring servers that scale up instead of out.

"One of the principles of cloud scale is scale out not up, but yet we see a lot of existing applications, and a lot of applications that are making heavy use of data, that benefit from scaling up to an extent," said Russinovich. "One of the attributes of one of these VM sizes is having huge amounts of RAM and huge amounts of SSD that all serve as cache for that data, which is typically pulled from someplace else and then deeply processed over."

Nadella says Microsoft was proactive in building a cloud structure rather than reactive to the trend. While the cloud sector is dwarfed by the company's overall business, it's still a major player in the market, according to Nadella.

"We have a $4.5 billion business that's growing well and it's fantastic to see," said Nadella. "It's just that in relation to our success of $70 billion it's a small business. But the overall magnitude of our cloud business today shows that we've caught the trend at the right time, jumped on it with a unique value proposition and we're now further accelerating. So it's no longer for debate, whether we get the cloud."

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