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Guthrie To Lead Microsoft Azure App Platform Team

Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's .NET platform head, will leave that post to run a new Azure Application Platform team as part of a May reorg, Microsoft confirmed today.

Hints that the reorg would happen popped up last week. Blogger Mary-Jo Foley (and Redmond magazine columnist) reported today that Guthrie will take the reins of the Azure Application Platform. She cited an internal memo written by Developer Division Senior Vice President S. "Soma" Somasegar, which outlined Guthrie's move and some of the shuffling that will take place with his departure. As Somasegar wrote in the memo, Microsoft needed "a strong leader to help drive the development of our Cloud Application Platform and help us win developers for Azure."

The full text of the memo is available here.

It's clear that Microsoft is hoping to capture developer attention with the move.

“We needed a passionate leader for bringing developers to the Windows Azure platform," said a Microsoft spokesperson when contacted about the transfer. "Scott has been increasingly responsible for areas that are of great importance to Azure, and his technical expertise and passion are key to helping Azure take the next step in these areas."

Guthrie will report to Ted Kummert, senior vice president of the Business Platform Division. The new Azure Application Platform team will be made up of several existing teams, according to the internal memo. These include the Web Platform and Tools team under Bill Staples, the Application Server Group under Abhay Parasnis, and the Portal and Lightweight Role teams drawn from the Windows Azure team.

Roger Jennings, principal at OakLeaf Systems, said that the move makes a lot of sense for an Azure team that faces ramped up competition from IBM and Amazon.

"The Windows Azure Platform team needs the charisma and energy that Scott Guthrie brought to Visual Studio," Jennings wrote in an e-mail interview. "Despite the plethora of new CTPs and feature releases, it seems to me that Windows Azure has been somnolent since Bob Muglia relinquished management of the Server and Tools business and Satya Nadella took over with Bill Laing continuing as the head of the Server and Cloud Division."

The Sinofsky Shuffle
The decision to move Guthrie from his role at the Developer Division to the Azure Application Platform team mirrors an earlier shift, when Steven Sinofsky was moved from his leadership role in the Office group to become president of the Windows and Windows Live Division. Sinofsky was highly regarded for his disciplined management and ability to produce timely and stable releases of the Office productivity suite -- both valuable assets for a Windows unit struggling after the troubled launch of Windows Vista.

"Microsoft often takes 'stars' from one team and sends them to another team to try to 'goose' it," Foley wrote in an e-mail exchange. "Azure sales need goosing."

Foley noted that her followers on Twitter offered up ideas for what Guthrie could accomplish in the Azure group, from enabling more open source language support to making the platform "more friendly" for developers.

Jennings believes Guthrie will be well prepared for his new role.

"Visual Studio has more and longer tentacles than Azure, and certainly a wider range and more users," he said, adding that it's critical that the Azure team "coordinate marketing with development, especially if Microsoft Research will be spending 90 percent of their proceeds on the cloud starting next fiscal year."

Not everyone thinks Microsoft needs to move Guthrie from the Developer Division, where he has emerged as a young and influential star in the Microsoft executive ranks.

"I think Azure already has a strong developer story, whether it is used with Microsoft's tools or the several non-Microsoft ones supported by the platform, and I don't think there's an emergency situation where a new leader is needed at its helm," said Rob Sanfilippo, analyst at research firm Directions on Microsoft.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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