Satya Nadella just laid out the 5 factors Microsoft believes will shape the future of cloud computing (MSFT)


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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sees significant change ahead for the cloud computing industry.

Nadella laid out what he called the “five key attributes that will drive this next generation of innovation in the cloud” during the company’s virtual Ignite conference on Tuesday.

In short, he believes the future of cloud computing will be shaped by a radical change in computing architecture moving from data centers to local devices, an explosion in “volume, variety and velocity of data,” and deliberate steps to enable more creators, expand economic opportunity, and create more trust in technology. 

Edge computing and even more data will drive change

The first of those factors is “ubiquitous and decentralized computing.” Nadella outlined how he believes a radical change in computing architecture is on the horizon, thanks to an ever-expanding set of connected devices that process data locally, moving from the cloud to what’s called the “edge.”

Edge computing means processing data where it’s collected, instead of offsite in the cloud. Nadella is by no means alone in this prediction. Many companies, including cloud market leader Amazon Web Services, are preparing for the expansion of edge computing.

Next, the expansion of edge computing will mean even more growth in computing capacity: “Volume, variety, and velocity of data will go to explosive growth in the cloud and in particularly at the edge,” Nadella said.

The explosion in data will make data privacy, governance, and provenance more important than ever, Nadella said, especially as that data is increasingly used in machine learning and AI applications. “Business logic will move from being code that is written to being code that is learned from data,” he said, “Creating a complete new generation of business process and productivity systems.”

Tech needs to become more expansive and inclusive 

Nadella also advocated for what he called the “democratization of creation,” which means expanding skills, tools and platforms and connections and collaboration across communities so “everyone can create, whether it’s building a virtual world, students working on an assignment with short form videos, knowledge workers creating formulas and spreadsheets for developers, writing code or domain experts using local tools to build applications.”

(To this end, Microsoft on Tuesday introduced a new developer platform for mixed reality called Microsoft Mesh.)

Democratizing creation, Nadella said, will expand economic opportunity. “We need to define productivity much more broadly inclusive of collaboration, learning, and well-being to drive career advancement for every worker, including front line and knowledge workers, as well as for new graduates and those who are in the workforce today,” Nadella said.

Finally, the future of the cloud will be shaped by whether technology companies can inspire trust. 

“Fundamentally, a technology provider should succeed only when it helps the world around it succeed. No one wants to build technology that rapidly scales but breaks the world around us,” Nadella said, “No customer wants to be dependent on a provider that sells them technology on one hand and competes with them on the other,

Nadella didn’t mention its top cloud rival Amazon by name, but a common refrain in the tech industry is that retailers, and anybody else who might compete with Amazon, are reticent to sign on with its cloud business because of perceived rivalry. Microsoft has made this comparison between itself and its competitors before. Cloud executive Tom Keane recently said what he thinks sets Microsoft apart in the industry is “trust.”

Nadella also called for ethical principles to govern the design and development of technology, “with the design intent to protect the fundamental rights of all people, including privacy and strengthening these institutions we all depend on for our livelihoods and well-being.” Microsoft has done this by publishing its ethical principles for facial recognition, but has also been criticized by some of its own employees for selling the technology to law enforcement agencies.

Are you a Microsoft employee, or do you have insight to share? Contact reporter Ashley Stewart via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-425-344-8242) or email (

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