Cloud technology looms large over Microsoft conference

Microsoft looks to position itself at leading edge of global cloud storage market

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella opens the US technology titan’s annual Build Conference in Seattle on May 10th, 2017. The focus is on artificial intelligence that follows people from device to device. Photograph: Glenn Chapman/AFP/Getty Images

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella opens the US technology titan’s annual Build Conference in Seattle on May 10th, 2017. The focus is on artificial intelligence that follows people from device to device. Photograph: Glenn Chapman/AFP/Getty Images

 

Seattle is a fitting location for Microsoft Build 2017, the open source giant’s annual coding and developer extravaganza. The Pacific northwest’s overcast backdrop provided the perfect setting for another tech conference where cloud storage is front and centre.

There’s still a long way to go in the race to control the virtual skies though. Cloud-based technology is in its infancy but every major player – from Apple to Oracle – sees the enormous potential this market offers.

In such a climate, rival cloud storage providers must try to set themselves apart from the competition – no easy feat given how intangible and difficult to define cloud storage itself is to the average user.

Microsoft is doing so in part by showing clients’ practical applications of the technology – from worker safety on construction sites to its use in the future of car design. Brace yourself for a whole new suite of cloud-related buzzwords too.

Like “intelligent edge”. “We are seeing a fundamental change in the paradigm of apps – moving from one world to a new one made up of an ‘intelligent cloud’ and an ‘intelligent edge’,” Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella told a large crowd at the opening keynote of Microsoft Build 2017.

“Intelligent edge” is in part-reference to the internet of things (IoTs), another familiar area of innovation – along with AI and data analytics – that Microsoft is launching various offerings at the annual developer’s conference taking place in Seattle, Washington.

Microsoft may not appear to be as relevant as it once was in tech innovation but it would be unwise to discount a company with the kind of resources and global reach this one still commands. Media have come from every corner of the globe where it is hoped much needed international coverage might be generated for products and services like Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri, Apple’s more ubiquitous virtual assistant.

Controlling the cloud

Identifying Oracle specifically at a press briefing, director of corporate communications Frank Shaw positioned Microsoft front and centre in the race to control as much of the cloud storage market as possible.

“People want to migrate from Oracle,” he said. “Microsoft is now providing the right set of tools to bring those customers over.”

It doesn’t sound like Microsoft need to be poaching clients from elsewhere though. According to Nadella’s keynote on the opening day, “90 per cent of all Fortune 500 companies are already running operations on Microsoft Cloud.”

Regardless, that’s still 90 per cent of a drop in the ocean. The potential scale of the future cloud storage market is difficult to fathom. Still, that is what Microsoft and everyone else in tech is competing for: a virtual cloud in a yet-to-be-defined future. “When I joined the company in 1992, the total amount of internet traffic amounted to 100 gigabytes per day,” says Nadella. “Today 17.5 million times that much traffic is generated every second. Ninety per cent of all the data that has ever been created was generated in the last two years.”

Microsoft Build 2017 runs from May 10th-12th in Seattle.