Who Let the Red Dogs Out?

Microsoft went from zero to 60 with its cloud computing platform, Windows Azure. The leader of the core group behind the effort to build a cloud operating system, code-named Red Dog, talks about how they immersed themselves in the world of cloud computing, services and data centers.

How was Microsoft able to go from zero to 60 on a brand-new cloud operating system in only two years?

Well, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley appears to have some insight into that based on a Feb. 23 post that looks like it will be the first of a series. Microsoft apparently granted Foley access to its "Red Dog" team, which is responsible for delivering the cloud operating system that is at the heart of Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud computing platform. That cloud OS is code-named Red Dog-a moniker given to the project after a road trip team members took to research their push into the cloud and services world.

What appears to have helped Microsoft along is that the man pushing the development of Red Dog, Ray Ozzie, was not a longtime Microsoft insider. That in many minds was supposed to be the exact quality that was going to be Ozzie's downfall at the software giant. And yet in the case of building out Azure it was an asset.

Click here to read about the updated Windows Azure SDK.

Ozzie tapped Amitabh Srivastava, corporate vice president with responsibility for Windows Azure, to help establish the team that would build Red Dog. Srivastava said Ozzie "was completely high on services," while he himself was a leader on the Windows team and had no background in services. But that's OK. As Srivastava said, all the other cloud contenders, such as Google and Amazon.com, "are just 5 minutes into the first quarter" of the game of cloud computing.

Tasked with building up a team, one of the first people Srivastava asked to join up was Dave Cutler, the famed operating system designer who led the development of the Digital Equipment Corp. VMS minicomputer operating system and Windows NT. And soon the team consisted of about 20 hard-core developers on what amounted to a software ninja mission of "servicizing" the Microsoft platform.

Indeed, wrote Foley:

""Almost nobody inside Microsoft knew about Red Dog," Srivastava said. (Including Chairman Bill Gates, he noted.) "And none of us (on the team) knew if it was going to work.""

Also according to the post:

""Our problem was how do you create a services mindset?" Srivastava said. Instead of spending years crafting an operating system and then deploying it, the team needed to think about writing pieces of software that would be deployed immediately."

In addition, Srivastava wrote a memo called "Owning the Cloud," which laid out Microsoft's game plan for getting into and winning in the cloud computing game.

Part of the team's overall strategy was that "the key to the cloud was to be able to better manage the data center," Foley wrote.

"The idea became managing a data center as an operating system," Foley quoted Srivastava as saying. "We wanted to abstract the whole thing and manage all the resources."