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June 8, 2017

Microsoft’s cloud boss on not being unhackable and learning from AWS

Paranoia and everyone doing their part is the best way to fight cyber attacks.

By James Nunns

Protecting against cyber attacks is one of the hottest topics across the tech industry and business at large, but it doesn’t really matter how much is spent on defence because there is no guarantee that you won’t be hacked.

Scott Guthrie, EVP of the Cloud and Enterprise group in Microsoft said on stage at the Geekwire Cloud Tech Conference in Washington that: “You can never be paranoid enough.

“If people say, ‘if I sign with you, can you guarantee I won’t be hacked?’ If I say yes, I’m lying.”

There’s too many moving parts, many not under the control of one company, and they sit in many different locations. This creates a need for everyone to pull their weight, to be as safe as they can, including at the application level.

“You need to be responsible at the application level to do what you have to do,” said the Microsoft cloud boss. Scott Guthrie

Unfortunately, many of the recent breaches have come because of vulnerabilities in applications, rather than breaking into a cloud data centre. Guthrie said that applications have to be locked down, and many in the industry agree.

Cloud providers cannot say that their customers will never be hacked but their services are all about layered defences on every piece of technology, essentially setting up road blocks to slow an attacker.

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Microsoft, and all the cloud vendors are constantly learning and updating their products and security, and it would appear that they are learning from each other.

Read more: Lloyds Bank signs cloud mega deal with IBM

Guthrie said that his company, which is located not too far from Amazon, said: “I think partly because we are based in each other’s backyards, there is a bit of cross-pollination between both organizations.”

Microsoft was left in the dust by the rise of Amazon Web Services, and while Microsoft has been making a concerted effort to catch up and overtake the cloud market leader, there’s still a long way to go.

The Redmond company has clearly learnt a lot from AWS and has set matching its capabilities, but it’s far from a one way street, with Guthrie saying that Amazon has learnt from Microsoft’s strengths in selling to business customers and in building a network of partner companies.

Guthrie said: “The cultures probably have gotten closer together the last several years.”

On the culture and business structure front, Microsoft has decided to consolidate and realign some of its cloud, artificial intelligence and data platform business units.

Sources reported by ZDNet said that the internal changes were announced on the 7th and will take effect immediately.

Guthrie has created a new Cloud AI Platform organisation which will be led by corporate VP Joseph Sirosh and will report to Harry Shum, Microsoft’s head of AI Research. The unit will oversee Azure Search, Azure Machine Learning, the Microsoft Bot Framework, R Server and the Algorithms and Data Science Solution Team.

A number of other personnel shuffles will be taking place with figures moving into different units.

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