Muglia Weighs in on New Vision

By eweek  |  Posted 2006-07-11

Muglia Weighs in on New Vision

Microsoft has a new mantra, the "people-ready business," that it is trying to explain. Bob Muglia, the Redmond, Wash., companys senior vice president for servers and tools, talked about this during his keynote at the TechEd conference in Boston June 11-16, while CEO Steve Ballmer is expected to continue to promote it at the companys Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston July 11-13. Muglia sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli at TechEd to explain this vision as well as how Microsoft wants to work with the open-source community on product interoperability.

Microsoft is trying to elucidate its vision for the people-ready business. What is really new here?

Whats new is that we are certainly going to meet our promises. Those promises are, at one level, focused, long-term, strategic, coherent and very much in line with what customers are looking for. It is Microsoft taking a long-term view of working in partnership with our customers, focusing on their needs, understanding their business and trying to help them drive business results.

That has not been our classic focus in the past. You know, we have been a technology-focused company, and we are still a technology company, no two ways about that, but we are looking at how we can help provide technology to provide our customers with the business value they need. It is our sincere and absolute goal to be able to stand by the commitments we are making now, successfully.

But this is a set of promises for the long term, that go beyond just one wave of product releases, correct?

We are trying to be very upfront about that. We are talking about the System Center wave in 2007, and the "Longhorn" wave in 2007. And while we are talking publicly about some specific projects in the short-term, we are also talking to customers, under nondisclosure agreements, about products beyond that. This lets customers meet with us to help shape where we are going in the future. Obviously, we dont want to make commitments about future time frames while we are still learning from those customers what shape those products need to take. But we are trying to be very transparent in terms of what we do know.

There are a lot of products coming to market under the Longhorn wave. How do you and your team manage all of them along with the releases beyond that which are under development?

Id be happy to talk about that. We came from the perspective of a software company where a few people had in their heads all the things that we are doing in a coherent way. But its not what we need anymore. What we need is to be much more focused on what customers require and then to be able to engage with those customers in a very interactive, continuous way to be able to shape our future direction. Three or four years ago, we put the concept of workloads in place, and that is now the bible for how we run the business. There are now more than 25 workloads. My job is simple: to put the organizational and strategic framework in place to allow us to work with customers to build the right products.

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So, you have this structure and then we have 10 commitments that are focused on broad areas of the business. In my organization, we have vice presidents assigned to [one or more] commitments, and underneath that are workloads, which are assigned inside commitments. Every workload has a general manager attached to it, and that manager is responsible for understanding that business. Workloads are businesses. They are integrated, and sometimes they aggregate into products. For example, Windows Server ships some 14 workloads, but each of those [is a business] in the sense that there are customers who focus on [it] and system integrators who focus on it and distributors who focus on reselling it, and [there are] competitors. So we think of those as separate businesses, and we have a process, called ... "Running the Business Process," to manage them. Once or twice a week, we have sessions where one of those general managers comes in and presents an all-up view of that business to us in a standardized format, and we have deep conversations with [that manager] about where that business is going. Each manager reports back to us in this way about every 10 months.

Next Page: Working with the open-source community.


Is there a particular example of this that you can tout?

Im particularly proud of Kyril Faenov, the general manager for high-performance computing. We were nowhere in the space two years ago, when he started in that role. Now, he and that team know all of the ISVs, theyve had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of customer engagements. The way they have touched and worked into that industry is just phenomenal, and it is exactly the way we should do it.

They even worked with the open-source community, right?

Were working with the open-source guys, which is great. There are a lot of ways that we are going to be working with open source. Open source is a way of building software, and, in its most basic sense, there is nothing incompatible between the concept of open-source and commercial software. But the [GNU] GPL [General Public License] has an inherent incompatibility that, to my knowledge, is impossible to overcome. A commercial organization must build intellectual property, and GPL by its very nature does not allow the intellectual property to be built. That makes those two incompatible. But BSD [Berkeley Software Distribution]-style licenses and commercial [software] are quite compatible with each other.

But we are open to ways of working with the open-source community broadly, and, even in the GPL space, we are trying to find ways in which we can build bridges to GPL. But the bridge has to be carefully constructed.

Can you give me some examples of the ways you are looking to work with that community?

One is making sure that as we do interoperability things that we can work with the GPL on that. In other words, so that people can build solutions on GPL that interoperate with us … we are really trying to understand how we can drive interoperability forward in a way that bridges the gap between the commercial and GPL worlds.

How is this outreach being received by the community?

They are skeptical but intrigued. I think that what people are starting to discover is that people who like GPL code are not evil, and people who build commercial software are also not evil; we just have different approaches to software.

Vendors using open-source software must also be hearing from their customers that they want more interoperability with other platforms, including commercial ones, right?

Sure. This is just the more mature view of the way the world is evolving, and we want to make sure that, for those customers choosing solutions based on Linux or other open-source-based products, we have ways of interoperating and working effectively with that. Now, those are competitors, and so my goal is to do a better job than they do at solving customer needs and having customers choose my solutions. But, if they choose not to, we should be interoperating and working well with them. Youll be seeing more of this in the future.

But doing this with the open-source community must be more challenging for Microsoft, not so?

Its more challenging in the sense that there are business model incompatibilities there, and that makes it a little weird. But, as we spend time learning about what it means, again we are finding ways to build bridges.

Did the recent acquisition of JBoss by Red Hat change the competitive landscape for you at all?

No, not really. Red Hat does a good job of pulling together a broad set of open-source technologies and providing it in system distributions to customers. That is probably a good thing. That is the nature of open source—it all seems to aggregate.

What have you learned from the open-source model?

Well, [its] development methodology is very interesting. [Its] community-based development [structure] we really got and internalized and are now making a standard part of our process. Open source was way ahead of us on that, and we have learned from [it]. The whole thing where Microsoft is an open, blog environment is an example of us trying to really embrace these existing trends in the community and be very open and have a broad community we work with across every aspect of our products. That is the model of the future, and so we are embracing that.

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