Although cloud is increasingly the future of Microsoft - a change in direction which Russinovich points out started under Steve Ballmer and has spread through the whole company – it's also bringing benefits to server products like SQL Server, Office and Windows Server. "We're working on aligning the cadences because we're updating the cloud all the time and we want to get that stuff back into the boxed software faster and faster."
You won't have to update as often as Azure does if you don't want to, he promises. "There's going to be options for people that want to move slowly and people that want to move fast; the Azure Pack you can move fast with, System Centre is more slow. There will be tracks for the fast path and for when I want to stand it up and have it work for ten years and not touch it."
Something Microsoft has learned from building Azure is that long development and testing cycles aren't the best way of getting good software. "With the boxed software, the mentality is that once it gets out into the world we've lost touch with it, so we have to go through a year-long beta to make sure it's solid, so that when we give it to you it doesn't break. But what we found is that instead of making the platform more stable, it has the inverse effect. Because our systems then are designed for this really slow way of pushing things out, when something does break we can't get around to fixing it because our system don't support pushing something out quickly. The only way you can get more stable is to release more often. Once you're getting things out quickly and detecting where health goes awry really quickly, then you don't have to let things bake for ever."
Instead Microsoft tests things out first with internal systems "so if we inflict pain it's on us". If it works well, the new code goes first to a small section of Azure and then to more and more of the cloud. That's the same way Windows Update works. "We don't throw patches out to the whole world at once; we do it to a subset so if there's a problem we can fix it before we impact everybody."
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Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.