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Nadella sees Azure as the world’s computer

The Microsoft CEO wants organisations to consider Azure as a distributed cloud for next-generation AI applications

Microsoft has presented its vision for how the Azure cloud will drive the technology roadmap in the public sector.

Its chief executive regards Azure as a distributed cloud platform to enable public sector users to build new innovative applications that can take advantage of advances in artificial intelligence (AI) using the software tools available in Microsoft’s cloud.

Addressing public sector delegates at the company’s Government Leadership Summit 2019, CEO Satya Nadella discussed how demand for software engineers and developers was increasing at a phenomenal rate. 

According to Nadella, the number of software engineers that are being hired outside of the tech industry is growing by 11%, and the technology sector contributes 5% to GDP: “The rest of our GDP is being software-driven.”

He used the event to showcase the growth of GitHub as a platform, not just for sharing code through its source code repository, but also for collaboration in the wider software developer community. “In the public sector, the growth of software engineers is 44%,” said Nadella. “In many cases, these software engineers live on Github.”

In June 2018, Microsoft acquired GitHub for $7.6bn, which provides more than just source code control. “There are 40 million [users] on GitHub,” he said. “It is not only used for source code control. It is the community of software developers coming together and collaborating to help achieve their mission.”

Nadella also said the GitHub software repository provides a way to code and collaborate on code, and that a new type of digital workflow is emerging: powered by what developers do with code.

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In Nadella’s vision of the digitally powered enterprise, software development projects deployed by software engineers will change business workflows. These developers need powerful software tools. “If you have developers who are productive, then your digital capabilities will be good,” he said.

Given the exponential growth in data, Azure provides the platform to make developers productive, which enables them to take advantage of new and emerging challenges. “There will 50 billion connected devices by 2030,” he said. “All these computational endpoints will generate data. Some 90% of all the data we have today was generated in the past two years. That’s why we are building on Azure as the world’s computer.”

Nadella told delegates that they think about what they will be able to do that they cannot do today, thanks to the elastic processing power and storage available on Azure. “We would not have to throw away a bunch of log data,” he said. Instead, the log data could be held in Azure and analysed: “The cloud is a new paradigm for distributed computing.”

Nadella then asked delegates to reimagine the data stack when they have limitless compute and storage capabilities. “We can scale linearly operational stores and analytical stores,” he said, adding that in the distributed cloud, the meaning of a data warehouse or an online transaction processing system changes.

The public cloud enables these data stores to be used for new types of applications. “The business logic for these new applications will be AI,” he said.

Microsoft has been a pioneer of AI, said Nadella, and offers a suite of tools and a platform to enable public sector organisations to develop new AI-powered software. “We have built out GPUs [graphics processing units] and FPGAs [field programmable gate arrays] to run sophisticated training jobs,” he said. “We have the best tools for AI and out-of-the-box Cognitive Services.”

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