[Note: This post is the first in the ongoing “Architecture Matters” series. To read other posts in this series, visit the table of contents, here.]
I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a discussion with my own team, or the IT team of a partner where we all wanted to deliver a specific set of capabilities, but that delivery was ultimately limited in some way by the pre-existing architecture. It is simply impossible to overemphasize the importance of your architecture: It can empower your organization with scale, power and agility, or it can shackle you to the past and limit your ability to innovate.
The fact that the right/best/modernized architecture is a moving target doesn’t help things. For example, the architecture of the client-server apps built over the past 15 years is absolutely not the right architecture for the cloud apps the industry is building today.
As I think about the Mobile First, Cloud First world that we live in today, and are going to live in for the foreseeable future, the architecture of the solutions you’re using to support your organization are going to be critical to your success. The reason for this is simple: The pace of innovation and the pace of competition is faster than it has even been – and it is still accelerating. Trying to keep up with this is going to be impossible is you are not building upon the flexibility and innovation of a cloud-service.
That last paragraph isn’t meant to scare anyone – it’s something we’ve all seen before. For example, we’ve all had the experience of watching a competitor (and sometimes it’s a competitor that sprung up overnight) launch new capabilities which suddenly catapult them ahead of your company. When this happens you’re left looking at what they just delivered and thinking to yourself, “Wow, how did they do that?!?” The tough realization you end up with is that maybe their tools, their culture, or their architecture is just superior to yours. We’ve all been in this position (I can’t be the only one having conversations with myself, right?), and it is not a fun place to be. It’s demoralizing.
As I look at the future, I believe that the organizations who combine being obsessed about delighting their customers + the ability to constantly and rapidly deliver innovations are going to be the winners in their market – no matter what market it is. I also believe the cloud will be a deciding factor in doing this consistently, predictably, and at scale. Any app (technically a service) written for the cloud can be updated and improved multiple times a day – and that app can constantly deliver new innovations and capabilities that better serve your customers or end-users.
This is why your architecture is so important, and this is why I wanted to write a series of blog posts about architecture.
Everyday we’re all making decisions (big and small) that will have long-term impacts on our companies and on our individual careers. One of the most important decisions you’ll make is who you choose to partner with for Enterprise Mobility Management, Mobile Productivity, and Customer Relationship Management.
In this series, I’ll examine how and why Architecture Matters in the areas of Enterprise Mobility Management and Mobile Productivity. You have a lot of vendors to choose from in each of these areas, and, in this series, I’ll examine just how different Microsoft’s architecture is compared to anything else in the market. More importantly, I’ll look at why this matters to you and your organization.
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The Enterprise Mobility Suite and Office 365 were built from the ground-up as cloud SaaS services. Even though that last sentence only has 16 words, there is a ton of detail behind it. For example: When we put together the foundations of EMS and O365, we didn’t take existing architecture, move it to the cloud, and call it a service. We looked at each of these products from the point-of-view that the world was changing and that the greatest value would be delivered from the cloud and by making these tools cloud-consumable.
With this view of the future in mind, we made the decision to spend the extra time building an architecture that would enable the agility and continuous delivery of innovation that the cloud could provide – and which end-users would demand.
Getting specific: our architecture-centric approach meant that we would not attempt to host the System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) architecture as a cloud service.
SCCM was built in the client-server era (and it will, of course, continue to deliver incredible value for customers for many years to come), and it was architected to be engineered, built, deployed, and updated in a specific way. We will continue to invest heavily in SCCM – with much of these investments coming in the form on connecting SCCM to the cloud (Intune) to deliver more value faster.
The update cycle of an on-prem vs. a cloud-based product is a critical distinction when it comes to architecture. With SCCM, historically you would get an update every 12-18 months, and when you get that update you have to update your entire SCCM infrastructure. Contrast this with a cloud-based service like Microsoft Intune. A cloud service is built of many micro-services that interoperate to deliver end-to-end scenarios, and each of these micro-services can be updated independently of the other ones. When we built Intune, we did it with the point of view that the pace of innovation, as well as the sheer number of devices and operating systems that we would need to track/support/enable, would continue to accelerate and that we would need to have an architecture that could sustain the continuous delivery of new innovations and upgrades.
Now, by operating SCCM and Intune together, you have the industry’s premiere PC management solution interoperating with the industry’s best mobile device management solution. This combination provides exactly what you need to enable your users to be productive on all the devices they love.
A little over a year ago, my team and I were seriously considering a plan to acquire one of the existing EMM providers. During my time at Microsoft, I have led more than a dozen acquisitions, and I know that the impact of acquiring the right company with the right architecture and the right people can be huge. As we researched a possible acquisition, our greatest area of focus was on architecture.
What we discovered really surprised us: The “leaders” of the EMM market at that time had all built their solutions based on the architecture of the last decade rather than the architecture of the next decade.
When we discovered this, it made our decision very easy: We weren’t going to shackle ourselves to the past; we were going to build something for the future. Looking back on our research, and looking at what we’ve built today, I believe that EMS and O365 are the absolute best Enterprise Mobility solution on the market – and they both have the right architecture!
Architecture Really Matters.
It matters so much that, over the next couple months, I’ll be committing my time to authoring this series of blog posts. As you read these, I think you’ll be surprised by three things:
- What Microsoft is delivering across identity/productivity/management.
- How the architecture of what we’ve delivered is so different from the other solutions on the market.
- Why our architecture enables a level of innovation and agility that you simply cannot get from other EMM solutions.
I’m really looking forward to this series.