Microsoft sees itself as one of the public-cloud horsemen, but time will tell

When it comes to shared infrastructure, platforms and ready-to-use applications, Microsoft (s msft) certainly likes to think of itself as one of the four horsemen in the cloud era. The company’s experience in serving up applications to consumers and businesses totally informs the way it’s growing its Azure cloud, Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s president of server and tools businesses at Microsoft (s msft), told GigaOM founder and Senior Writer Om Malik at our Structure conference on Wednesday.

First-party applications such as Bing, Skype and Xbox Live come into the equation by demonstrating the ability to run with minimal failures at a large scale. It’s no Google search, but at least Microsoft can claim 17.6 percent share in search marketshare in the United States, Nadella said. Proof for public-cloud know-how also stems from widespread business use of house-run applications such as Office 365.

Nadella made the argument that since Microsoft can run all of these applications, its infrastructure is indubitably flexible enough to handle whatever companies want to throw at the Windows Azure Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

Of course, that public cloud savvy filters down to intelligence companies can use on premise to run public clouds on SQL Server, Nadella said.

So given all of these capabilities, how does Microsoft shape up on the horsemen question? On software, Nadella called out Google, (s goog) (s crm), and itself. On public-cloud infrastructure, he named Amazon, Google and Microsoft. And when it comes to taking infrastructure for their own public clouds and making it available for others, such as service providers and large enterprises, to build their own public clouds, his scorecard shows Amazon, VMware and, yes, Microsoft.

“The one name common across those three is Microsoft,” he said.

The trouble is, it’s still early in the public-cloud game, with adoption still gaining steam and with issues like privacy lying ahead that could throw it all off.

And that dominance is certainly taking its toll on the gear market. Nadella noted that Microsoft relies on lesser-known server makers such as Quanta along with big OEM contenders. Even so Om offered that major cloud providers such as Microsoft are leaving Dell (s dell), Hewlett-Packard (s hpq) and IBM (s ibm) as “roadkill.”

“I didn’t say that — those are your words,” Nadella said.

Check out the rest of our Structure 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page