DALLAS—When Paul Flessner, senior vice president of Microsoft Corp.s Windows Server division, takes the stage Monday morning to give the keynote address to the 9,000-plus attendees at the Microsoft TechEd conference here, he will be pushing the message that IT remains a core strategic asset for businesses.
In an interview before his address, Flessner said there has been some concern about whether IT has come to the end of its cycle of innovation and questions were being asked as to whether it should simply be managed as a cost.
“We plan to continue to move the industry forward with the help of IT professionals from around the world. The blanket statement that IT is commoditized and no longer offers a strategic or competitive advantage is simply nonsense,” he said.
IT remains about providing services, information, business process, connectivity and a range of other things that used together provide a competitive advantage for companies of all sizes. IT professionals remain core to that value proposition, whether they are managing or developing for that infrastructure, he said.
“But our perspective is that just because there is a lot of complexity in the world today, both in IT and business, we shouldnt throw up our hands and say its too hard and think about outsourcing or say its now a commodity.”
Microsoft has been pushing the theme of IT as a business asset, with Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates recently telling more than 100 business leaders from around the world that IT departments are having a hard time determining how much they should invest in new technologies to help their information workers do their jobs effectively.
“High volume commodity hardware has hit its stride in terms of putting the proprietary vendors on the defensive now, and people want to get more leverage out of their technologies. One way to do that is to reduce the cost structure and reinvest that back in the business,” he said.
Microsoft is telling customers that Web services are the way to get hooked up, both inside the firewall to all the different systems and platforms and to customers and partners through the platform—a message Flessner is going to stress in his keynote.
Microsoft believes that it has the best platform for Web services, .Net, while the Windows Server System is a great implementation as a platform for Web services and .Net.
Flessner will also be making a series of announcements around upcoming new products and other news to underscore this message, but he declined to detail these ahead of his keynote.
“But, for us, the Windows Server system is about helping the IT professional move his business forward rapidly. We do that by making it very simple to use so you can spend your time building applications and not managing and integrating a platform,” Flessner said.
On the interoperability front, Flessner said Microsoft believes it has a lower total cost of ownership and the best implementation of Web services, which are the way that interoperability between two sophisticated applications is going to occur, he said.
The most advanced and numerous implementations of Web services are currently inside the firewall connecting a given customers heterogeneous systems together or through the firewall to known partners, he said.
“The message we are pushing at TechEd is around business value. We believe that IT matters a lot, and we feel deeply about that. We want to help. Im not one to throw in the towel on IT as a business partner or its ability to help IT deliver a competitive advantage.
“The fact that things have gotten a little complex and that the business moves rapidly should only challenge and excite us. We should not give up and say its commoditized and outsource. We really want to push hard and take it to the next level of innovation,” Flessner said.
Attendance at TechEd is up some 30 percent to 9,000 this year over last year as customers look to engineer complexity out of their environment. This is what is pulling customers in to look at Microsofts product offerings, Flessner said.
The Windows Server System will be the center point for a lot of discussions at the conference as it is a set of technologies that “really give customers the ease of use they are looking for in their platform,” he said.
“I want to take IT professionals out of the integration business and put them into the application development business so they can provide value to their businesses,” Flessner said.
Microsoft will also be announcing that it plans to invest $1.7 billion into research and development for the Windows Server System in the 2004 financial year, which starts on July 1.
TechEd is Microsofts premier technical training event for customers using its tools and technologies. The conference will feature more than 350 technical breakout sessions, and Microsoft Chief Trustworthy Computing Strategist Scott Charney will deliver Tuesdays keynote focused on helping IT professionals and developers make trustworthy computing actionable within their organizations.
He will also announce the development of a new security training program offering customers additional support in conjunction with Microsofts Trustworthy Computing initiative.
“The conference attracts a broad customer base: developers, IT professionals, decision makers and non-technical staff. We have different sessions to appeal to them all and the road maps we have, several of which Ill detail in my keynote,” Flessner said.
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