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Windows Server is transforming for the cloud-first world

But what Microsoft has learned from running Azure is also key, especially when it comes to operations. "One of the mantras that we have in Azure is 'config is code'. Making a configuration change to the cloud is just as fraught with peril as making a code change. If you misconfigure something, you can cause an outage just as badly as having a bug in your software."

That's going to be an issue for businesses using hybrid cloud too, and Neil suggests the answer is cloud services that integrate with your servers for management. "Having the declarative templates, the JSON documents that implement the Azure Resource Manager artefacts and control that through Git, so you can version it, maintain it, audit logs on who has edited it – all of those things are critical for folks who want to be able to maintain and manage those environments."

"The other advantage we have is we know the topology of the application and so when faults occur we can understand better how that fault is going to impact an application. If it's one of five front-ends on your application that went down no big deal, spin up another; if it's the database server, that might be a more critical issue.

"Having that additional semantic context on how the app is laid out is important. Disaster recovery is another example – making sure you've backed up and replicated the entire application and not just a portion of the application."

Dramatic shift

While Neil points out that the range of Windows Server customers means they see a lot of different attitudes, the interest in hybrid is growing faster than even Microsoft expected. "The shift we've seen has been dramatic – 75% of folks are seeing hybrid as delivering business value they want. That number has shifted very rapidly. We are rarely seeing customers saying 'I only want to be in the public cloud' – or only on-premise.

"The only on-premise folks tend to be submarines, or highly regulated industries. That norm of 'I'm going to use some services on-prem and some from the cloud' is becoming the dominant customer viewpoint."

Hybrid is appealing because it lets businesses do things that would be far too expensive on their own hardware. "OMS is a good example," says Neil. "We went to customers and said 'Would you like predictive analytics that tell you whether someone is trying to break into your system?' and they said 'Yes, that sounds like a great feature'.

"But if we say, 'Okay, you need to run a Hadoop cluster and set up a big pool of storage,' the capital investment for them to acquire that hardware and then set that up and even the management headache of running that hardware is significant. We can deliver that from the cloud without any of that burden on the customer to run that infrastructure. That's real solid value."