Posts tagged ‘mark russinovich’

Microsoft’s Most Clever Critic Is Now Building Its New Empire #cloudwf

mark_russinovich_MKANE_03edit-660x440Before joining Microsoft and becoming one of its most important software engineers, Mark Russinovich was in the business of pissing the company off.

This was the late 1990s, when Microsoft dominated the tech world, its Windows operating systems running so many of the world’s computers, from desktops and laptops to corporate workstations and servers. During the day, Russinovich built software for a tiny New Hampshire software company, but he spent his evenings and weekends looking for bugs, flaws, and secrets buried inside Microsoft’s newest and most important operating system, Windows NT. Sharing his findings with the press or posting them to the web, he frequently pissed off Microsoft, but never so completely as the time he exposed Windows NT as a fraud.

Windows NT represented Microsoft’s future–its core code would underpin the company’s operating systems for years to come–and at the time, it was sold in two flavors. One was for corporate workstations used by engineers, graphic designers, and the like, and the other was for servers. NT Workstation was much cheaper, but, unlike NT Server, it barred you from running web serving software, the software that delivers websites to people across the internet. Microsoft said that NT Workstation just wasn’t suited to the task. But then Russinovich reverse-engineered the two OSes and showed that the truth was something very different. NT Workstation, he revealed, was practically identical to NT Server. It wasn’t that the OS couldn’t run web serving software. Microsoft just didn’t want it to.

“The story shows that Microsoft is capable of change–however long that change might take”.

The ruse was typical of the software giant, a way of artificially shifting a market in its own favor. It could force all web serving onto a more expensive OS while still selling a cheaper version for other tasks. And after Russinovich exposed the practice, releasing a tool that let anyone transform NT Workstation into NT Server, the company responded in typical fashion. Days later, when employees from his New Hampshire company flew across the country to participate in a Microsoft event, Microsoft barred them from the building. But at the same time, the incident managed to bring Russinovich closer to the software giant. Even as his colleagues were shut out of the company, the head of Windows offered him a job.

Told by the six-foot, five-and-a-half-inch Russinovich in his wonderfully straightforward way, it’s a tale that lays bare the unapologetically ruthless attitude that pervaded Microsoft in the ’90s and on into the aughts, an attitude that brought it enormous success but also landed the company in hot water with regulators and ultimately hampered its ability to compete in the more open and collaborative world of the modern internet. But the postscript to the tale–where Jim Alchin, the head of Windows, tries to hire Russinovich–also shows that Microsoft is more complicated than you might expect, that the company is capable of change, however long that change might take.

When Alchin offered him the job, Russinovich didn’t take it. But after several more years spent running his Sysinternals site–where he published a steady stream of exposés that, in his words, “pissed off” Microsoft and other tech outfits–he did join the software giant. The company made him a Microsoft Technical Fellow–one of the highest honors it can bestow–and today, he’s one of the principal architects of Microsoft Azure, the cloud computing service that’s leading the company’s push into the modern world.

Russinovich is a symbol for a new Microsoft, a Microsoft that’s systematically changing its old ways. Mirroring the company’s technical evolution, he began his career in computer operating systems and has now moved into the cloud. But, more than that, he embodies a new Microsoft attitude. Russinovich has a long history with Microsoft–so he understands the old attitudes and how some of them can still help the company—but, like recently appointed CEO Satya Nadella, he also sees where the company has gone wrong and where it must now travel in order to compete in a world shaped by the Googles, the Facebooks, and the Amazons.

‘I feel that, more and more, Microsoft is embodying the values I’ve always had.’

Today’s Microsoft, he says, is closer to what he wants it to be. “I feel that, more and more, Microsoft is embodying the values I’ve always had,” Russinovich told us last month at Microsoft’s annual Build conference in San Francisco, a conference where the company open sourced its most important software development tools, freely sharing them with the world at large–the sort of thing it never would have done in years past.

Even in small ways, Russinovich belies the Microsoft stereotype. As those inside the company will tell you, he’s unafraid to speak his own mind–something you see not only when he tells the story of his Windows NT exposé, but when he looks back on the NSA spying scandal and its effect on Microsoft. “He’s an independent thinker,” says Rich Neves, who has worked with Russinovich both inside IBM’s research operation and at Microsoft. “He has what you call intellectual honesty.” And as science fiction fans will tell you, he’s more than just a corporate software engineer. He’s the author of three techno-thrillersZero Day, Trojan Horse, and Rogue Code–Michael Crichton-esque novels recently optioned by an independent film producer. But he’s also someone who’s actively pushing Microsoft’s into new places, most notably with Azure.

Azure didn’t begin with Russinovich. But, along with Nadella, he’s one of the primary thinkers who pulled the cloud service out of the old Microsoft mindset and turned it into something that can compete for the future. “He has real vision,” says HP cloud chief Bill Hilf, who once worked alongside Russinovich at Microsoft. “And he knows how to listen to customers.”

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Cloud World Forum 2014
Speaker: Mark Russinovich


1392026391-speakerFirestarer: Cloud Scale: Insights into building a cloud future

This session will highlight the importance of hybrid clouds whereby we need to use some elements of cloud-based technologies; say a paas for a particular application, maybe Salesforce as alongside existing in-house managed applications and services.  This is because this is reality for most and we spend little time talking about the realities of managing such environments.  Most cloud conversations tend to focus on how wonderful life will be once all our databases and apps are in the cloud; back on planet earth we have to deal with a much more complex environment; we may be benefitting from virtualisation within our own data centres but the challenge is extending the boundary to encompass applications on similar technologies in someone else’s data centres.

Microsoft ups cloud storage ante #Cloudwf

Hear more from  Microsoft, 2014 Enterprise Cloud Partner and speakers, at the Cloud World Form – London 2014.


In a blog post not so subtly aimed at some of the company’s biggest cloud storage competitors (‘Thinking outside the box’), Microsoft announced Tuesday it will increase its OneDrive for Business storage capacity from 25GB to 1TB per user as it looks to use the service as a platform underpinning all of its other productivity services.

The company also said that it plans to help customers migrate their files from their current on premise or cloud-based storage solution to OneDrive.

Microsoft’s vice president of marketing John Chase took to the company’s Office Blog to announce the service upgrades, taking aim at some of its competitors and suggesting they are too consumer focused, and only offer file storage and syncing.

“File sync and share solutions represent key capabilities that keep people on the same page and responsive. There are several solutions offered, many from companies that have sprung up to focus exclusively on this market,” Chase said.

“Some have come from the consumer world and are new to the enterprise software market and the requirements around delivering enterprise-grade cloud services. Others are focused on the enterprise, but only as a point solution. Few are prepared to meet the evolving needs of businesses looking for a holistic and comprehensive approach to meeting the full needs of their employees as they live a cloud first, mobile first workstyle.”

Reading between the lines it’s clear Microsoft is stepping up its game against rivals like Dropbox and Box, which recently filed for an IPO.

OneDrive has been around for some time now but the company seems more content to drive the service as a platform that underpins its broad cloud-based productivity offerings, rather than being pitched as a standalone cloud service.

“Microsoft is committed to delivering the very best file sync and share solution as part of our commitment to creating the world’s most compelling cloud-first, mobile-first productivity experiences on the planet,” Chase said.

It’s clear that a company like Microsoft – one with serious scale and vast resources can afford to take this approach. Office 365 is a multi-billion dollar business at this point, and it’s the first of the big US-based cloud storage providers to make it behind the Great Firewall of China. But what’s not clear is whether the relatively new entrants, which would need to invest far more to reach comparable scale, will be able to keep up as Microsoft aggressively moves to stem competition from young upstarts.

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Microsoft Cloud World Forum 2014, speakers include:

  • Mark Russinovich, Technical Fellow
  • Rob Fraser, UK CTO Cloud Services
  • John Shewchuk, CTO- Developer Platform
  • Rob Craft, Senior Director, Cloud Strategy

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