Guthrie, who took over Microsoft's cloud business when Satya Nadella was elevated to chief executive officer in February, is spanning the globe, promoting the company's cloud tools to the rapidly evolving developer community.
In recent months, he's visited incubators in Singapore and China, and will be headed to Israel in early 2015, all in an effort to get a new generation of techies building on top of Microsoft. Next month he'll speak at Y Combinator, the prominent San Francisco start-up incubator, for the first time.
"It's a good sign that we've seen so much developer interest lately," said Guthrie, executive vice president of the Redmond, Washington-based company's cloud and enterprise group. "It's a good indication of how far the product has come."
From $3.6 billion last year, cloud infrastructure will expand 31 percent a year through 2018, according to IDC. Amazon currently controls 40 percent of the market—also according to IDC—but the numbers are fuzzy because companies don't break out infrastructure sales. Synergy Research Group says Amazon has 27 percent market share, followed by Microsoft at 10 percent, IBM at 7 percent and Google at 5 percent.
Microsoft's product Azure is the company's answer to Amazon, which has spent the past eight years welcoming start-ups and increasingly large businesses into its data centers, eliminating their need to own and manage servers and storage arrays.
What the experts and vendors agree upon is that the cloud is winning, and neither the Edward Snowden saga nor the occasional service outage will change the trajectory. A crazy idea just a few short years ago, cloud computing now has so much momentum that any tech company known for selling traditional hardware and packaged software faces legitimate existential threats.
Microsoft, in the minds of many, has been in that club. But since becoming CEO, Nadella has made it clear that cloud is the future. In the latest quarter, commercial cloud revenue surged 128 percent, compared with 11 percent total growth (excluding the Nokia business). Still, cloud only accounts for about 5 percent of Microsoft's sales, even though Azure was introduced more than five years ago.
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"They're as serious as a heart attack about going after that market," said Bernard Golden, author of Amazon Web Services for Dummies and vice president of strategy at ActiveState Software. "Internally, they've woken up and said this is the path forward."
The benefits of cloud speed and efficiency coupled with rapidly declining costs have all but eliminated the need for most companies to buy their own gear. AWS has cut prices 46 times since its 2006 launch, while Google has slashed prices 38 percent this year and is actually cheaper than AWS for many of its on-demand machines, according to an October blog post from cloud management provider RightScale. For either service, businesses are paying as little as 6 or 7 cents an hour for a server, and Microsoft has vowed to stay competitive on price.