Microsoft bucks its own history, embraces “openness” in push for Azure adoption

It’s not often you write “Microsoft(s msft)” and”open” in the same sentence but, well, these are special times. The company is straining to make its Azure cloud service a bona fide rival to Amazon Web Services(s amzn), and believes that offering customers openness and options are one way it can stand out.

“It’s a change from the historical Microsoft by embracing openness in a new way,” said Scott Guthrie, EVP of the company’s cloud and enterprise group, speaking Wednesday at Gigaom Structure in San Francisco.

Guthrie pointed out that Azure offers tools for clients to run Linux and a wide variety of SDK’s, and touted its drag-and-drop machine tools for machine learning as a “democratic” way for companies to get more analytics.

Despite this pledge to play well with others, Microsoft still faces a challenge in getting non-Windows shops to give Azure a try rather than turning to the more familiar Amazon or to Google Cloud, which is rapidly gaining momentum.

Guthrie said Microsoft’s advantage may lie in its ability to offer a continuum of services, from bare bones storage to managed services to high level, hands-on support. He explained that the business solution for Microsoft is not “raw atoms” but moving up the stack.

Elite service and flexibility, combined with enterprise customers’ opportunity to use a hybrid cloud — by combining information in the public Azure cloud with onsite sensitive data — will help entrench Microsoft as a big-time cloud player, he said.

As for the ever-plummeting cost of cloud computing, in which Amazon and Google are dropping prices lower and lower, Microsoft is glad to be part of this game, Guthrie said.

“Every time one of the commodity prices goes down, we match in 48 hours,” he said, adding that this phenomenon of a deflationary platform is good for everyone — except, perhaps, other software vendors.

This story was amended at 730PM ET to delete a quote by Guthrie about the NSA, which lacked supporting context

Photo by Jakub Mosur

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