July 22, 2020
Image: Santiago Arias / Protocol
Welcome to Protocol Cloud, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software. This week: Microsoft's most important relationship isn't necessarily the one you might think, the fallout from Twitter's epic security incident, and why AI-washing is likely to catch up with you in the end.
And some housekeeping: I'm on vacation next week, so there won't be a newsletter Wednesday. See you in two weeks.
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Microsoft kicked off another virtual conference Tuesday: Out with the annual Inspire gathering with its legions of partners in Las Vegas; in with an online event featuring impeccably arranged Zoom backgrounds and lots of new announcements centered around its cloud business.
Partners are an often overlooked segment in the cloud and enterprise software business, and they range from big consulting companies like Deloitte to small businesses dedicated to helping other small businesses understand how to implement technology.
Partners are also given incentives to sell certain parts of the Microsoft portfolio. So, unsurprisingly, two of the most heavily incented products — Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Teams — received several updates Tuesday.
Microsoft expanded the capabilities of the Azure HCI Stack, which is more or less a cloud in a box, designed to run in a customer's own data center.
Microsoft also added a number of new features to Teams, its Zoom-and-Slack competitor for workplace collaboration.
Microsoft's partner relationships are one of its strongest advantages when it comes to fighting for the next wave of cloud business, as some of its oldest partners are catering to companies just now starting to think about taking the plunge. We'll get more details on its progress later today when it reports earnings.
Roll 'em up: There's a balance in managing how employees access sensitive internal data: If you're too restrictive, employees can't do their jobs. But if you're too permissive, you set yourself up for a nightmare such as the one Twitter experienced last week, when one compromised employee led to Twitter losing control of its service for several hours.
Mark it up: I haven't written many stories in the last few years where the collective response from experts polled on a topic was basically: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. But that's the response to Google's launch of the Open Usage Commons, ostensibly a neutral home for open-source trademarks that raised as many questions as it answered.
Level up: Cloud gaming services are interesting, but will take time to catch on thanks to the shoddy state of U.S. internet infrastructure. Microsoft plans to add its xCloud gaming service to its current Xbox subscription plan later this year, which analysts believe is mostly a clever way to sell cloud services to gaming companies.
What was your first tech job?
Sales at Oracle in the mid-'90s. There was no better place to cut your teeth in sales.
What's the best piece of advice you could give to someone starting their first tech job?
Stay curious, and be a consummate learner. Technology is constantly evolving, so it's important to stay ahead of the curve.
What has changed the most at your company over the past several months?
Agility at every level of the organization, manifest in remote work, product releases and responding to market changes.
What was the biggest reason for the success of cloud computing over the past decade?
The improved customer experience: rapid uptime, rich features and price consistency.
Will the pandemic usher in a new era of remote working, or will we all come back together when it is safe to do so?
Elements of remote work are here to stay, now that we have proven success. However, the need for human connection will motivate us to collaborate in person as soon as we are able.
Thanks for reading — see you in two weeks.