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Microsoft Azure Chief Jason Zander Talks Intelligent Cloud And Edge, Drones, HoloLens And Quantum Computing

‘What we’re working on at Microsoft is more analogous to like the transistor that became our modern computer environment,’ Microsoft Azure chief Jason Zander says, referring to his team’s quantum computing efforts. ‘I’m pretty sure I have a couple of future Nobel Prize winners on the team.’

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The Intelligent Cloud And Intelligent Edge  

Microsoft Azure is in 54 regions around the world and, with its entrance this month into South Africa, became the first major cloud provider to open in Africa.

“That gives you computing power all around the world,” Zander said. “It turns out when you buy a million of anything, you can get good discounts. You can figure out how to make things more cost-effective, but you can also open new types of problem-solving in computing.”

Microsoft has been working with oil and gas companies and the upstream exploration and production sector for 20 years – with its Windows operating system, Office software and services, and its embedded operating systems.

“Probably you’ve got brownfields implementations that are running that software,” he said. “The edge in this case then starts to take some of that same knowledge that we’ve had deploying sensors and set sensor meshes for a long time, but we have better silicon, better connectivity and that (artificial intelligence), so that intelligent piece is important.”

The edge is any computing experienced very directly -- in smart buildings, smart cities, lights, etc., Zander explained.

“All of those sensors that we perhaps have been doing in upstream for a very long time, but now we are applying them all over the world and in other sorts of places,” he said. “One of our biggest ones, for example, is smart elevators. It turns out that putting a set-top box on top of an elevator and doing predictive maintenance is actually a very, very handy thing to do for uptime, etc. And of course, again, in this particular industry, this is something that you’ve pioneered. The folks in this room… have been doing it for decades. But that next generation with AI and new silicon I think is really what starts to distinguish it.”

“I think intelligent edge operations is the next big click stop for us,” Zander said. “This gets into predictive maintenance. I’m really looking at (internet of things) and AI to figure out, ‘Yeah, okay, these signals, how do I keep things up and running?’”

“A great example of this one is a company called Seadrill,” Zander said. “Operating these drills, honestly what you don’t want is any kind of (non-production time), because if you run into that, you might be losing a million dollars a day. If I’m operating on a rig, what they’re doing is they’re actually using the IoT and AI support that we basically have to…do a predictive analysis of the efficiency of the rig. I can tell when we’re going to have issues, and I can make sure that things are going to continue to run.”

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