Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Ripples in Microsoft's Cloud as Amitabh Srivastava Leaves

The ripple effects at Microsoft in the wake of the pending departure of Microsoft Server and Tools head Bob Muglia continued today. First Satya Nadella, as reported by BoomTown’s Kara Swisher, was promoted from head of the Bing search effort to the helm of STB.

Second, Amitabh Srivastava, head of Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform business, announced that he’s leaving the company. Srivastava, who joined Microsoft in 1997, was widely considered to be a possible successor to Muglia, but lost out to Nadella.

One of the few ever to be named a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft–an honor now known as Technical Fellow–he was tapped, along with Brian Valentine, by then Windows chief Jim Allchin to take over the Windows engineering efforts in 2003 at a time when the operating system was being widely derided as plagued with security and other problems. Srivastava had his team draw up a map depicting how all the various pieces of the Windows source fit together. It was eight feet tall, 11 feet wide, and was described in a 2005 Wall Street Journal story as looking like a “haphazard train map with hundreds of tracks crisscrossing each other.”

Srivastava and Valentine are credited with the 2004 proposal to streamline how all those pieces functioned, a plan that would allow various features to be added or removed without disrupting the whole operating system. The idea was a partial response to the looming threat from Google, which that year had launched Gmail. The problem was their plan required throwing out a lot of legacy source code that had been in Windows for years, and starting fresh.

Srivastava’s changes included automating testing on features that had for years been done by hand. Code with too many bugs were sent to “code jail.” Over time, code flowing into what was to become Windows Vista improved.

We all know what happened with Vista–it too was widely panned. But the engineering processes put in place had a lot to do with the many improvements that appeared in Windows 7.

Srivastava then moved on to a new Microsoft project in 2006, code named Red Dog, now known as Azure, which launched in 2008. From this he pivoted to running the server and cloud division, overseeing Microsoft’s relationships with enterprise and data center customers.

People I’ve been talking to who tend to know a lot about the internal politics at Microsoft say this isn’t the last of the changes. Now that Muglia’s replacement has been announced, Nadella is going to want to name key members for his team, which means that those not tapped will probably choose to leave as well. The management shake-up at Microsoft is not over yet.

Srivastava has a Ph.D. in computer science from Penn State, and was invited to deliver the commencement address at the school’s College of Engineering in 2008, which is in the video below. Key quote: “In the end, it’s all about execution.”


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