To the Cloud!

NOTE: This is a personal blog post. If you usually come here for technical content, please feel free to skip this one

First, a big thank you to everyone who reached out over Twitter and email after my last blog post. I am humbled that so many of you care about me. The last blog post was, surprisingly, the most popular one on this blog. I promise this will be the last of my blog posts marking this transition in my personal life. However, it will certainly NOT be the last blog post I make about Windows. There’s a lot there I want to talk about. In fact, now that I’m not officially employed by Microsoft (as of midnight tonight) I feel like I can comment on Microsoft’s strategy without the encumbrance of my comments being seen as the official line. But before I do that, let’s talk about what I’m going to be doing next.

As some of you may know I used to work in the team that built and release SQL Server 2012. As I was getting ready to leave that team to come work for Windows we were prototyping a new service that eventually turned into Azure Data Factory. Go check it out, it is pretty cool. Well, that was one of my first run-ins with the world of big data and the cloud.

But Windows Phone beckoned. I plunged myself into Windows Phone and the wonderful world of what is now called Universal Windows Platform. It was everything it promised to be. I ended up learning more about Windows, Android, iOS and Mac OS X than I’d ever known. Somewhere along the way, early 2014 to be exact, all of the operating systems at Microsoft finally got rolled into one. This is what became Windows 10. Thanks to that change I got the chance to contribute to the Universal Windows Platform, a platform that defines the future direction of Windows and hopefully a healthy chunk of client computing. Not just on phones, desktops or laptops either, but on HoloLens, Surface Hub, Internet of Things devices and other things that I don’t even know about. In other words, I had a criminal amount of fun! 🙂

Now however it is time for me to go build my cloud muscle. After 9 years at Microsoft I was also hankering for some place with a very different culture. I found both of those things in Salesforce. After all, what better place to learn about the cloud than the place that started it all almost 16 years ago. Imagine trying to convince businesses to put their most critical data on your servers with the knowledge that they’re going to be one of many tenants on your server. Imagine doing this at a time when most businesses ran their own data centers and co-located servers. Imagine doing this at a time when small and medium sized businesses couldn’t even think about using “enterprise-grade” software. Yet that is exactly what Marc Benioff and his team managed to do. I am fascinated by the amount of trust Salesforce has been able to build with their community of users and this is my chance to learn how that works.

I will be helping build out the platform for Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud product. So yes, I will still be working on APIs and my customers, for the most part, will still be developers (both internal and external) but this time they’ll be cloud developers. But building applications at Salesforce is so much more than just trying to bring people who can write code into the fold. It is about giving business analysts, marketers and customer-facing people the ability to define what the software they use looks like. That’s a very different audience from the one I’ve traditionally interacted with so I’m a little scared and very excited.

Finally, there’s a very personal reason Salesforce appeals to me. Years ago when I was in high school I saw my father struggle to manage stock in his wholesale business operation. It was all paper and ledgers and inventory registers. Somehow I convinced him to buy a computer because I thought it would help us do a better job of managing the business. This was 1997 and state if the art in India was a Compaq machine with a Pentium clone processor from Cyrix. This machine cost us almost Rs. 70,000 (about $1200 at the time) which was a lot of money by Indian standards. Well, once we’d bought the computer we had a “now what?” moment. We went looking at commercial software on offer and pretty much the only thing we could find was a product called Tally that clearly did not meet out needs. This made sense because there was no easy way for someone like us to communicate our needs to Tally at the time.

So I ended up building a solution using DBase 3 Plus. It worked, but now I was on the hook to fix all bugs and I had to back the critical data up on floppy disks every week. We also had to have printouts handy just in case the floppies went bad. At the time, I would have killed to have the sort of cloud solutions available to businesses today. We would have loved to manage our customers using a mature CRM system or reach out to them using a decent marketing product. But we were constrained not only by the technology of the day but also the business models in vogue at the time. I really really believe in the cloud and in software being a service rather than something you build and forget about because I’ve been on the other end of the “old” world. I also believe that a smart cloud and client are going to be important parts of every business in the very near future.

So it’s time for me to stick my head into the cloud and see what happens. Wish me luck! 🙂

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