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Microsoft Azure’s Rohan Kumar: ‘It's Not Just About The Innovation Piece’

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, discussions about the cloud and digital transformation have turned a lot more toward value creation and total cost of ownership, Kumar says.

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The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated discussions around the need for digital transformation journeys, but it’s also brought cloud cost issues to the fore, according to Rohan Kumar, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Azure data.

“What COVID has pushed forward is how do we do the same thing while reducing costs,” Kumar, a 21-year Microsoft veteran, said at the Bank of America Securities 2020 Global Technology Conference last week. “The aspiration doesn't go away, but the discussions have turned a lot more into the value-creation piece.”

Driving businesses based on clear insight has become even more important, according to Kumar, “so the investments that they have to make to modernize their data platform, analytics platform, if anything, the urgency is built out.”

Kumar is the engineering leader for everything Microsoft does around data and analytics, both on-premises and in the public cloud, from the on-premises SQL Server relational database to managed Azure data services products including SQL Database, Cosmos DB, Database for PostgreSQL, Azure Data Lake, Azure Stream Analytics and Microsoft’s Analytics Platform System.

“What we've heard from our customers when they're successful in Azure, the thing that in many ways stands out is a focus just around enterprise security, governance,” Kumar said in a question-and-answer session with Kash Rangan, Bank of Americas’ managing director of global research. “These are the things that we've learned having worked with customers for more than 25 years now. While there is a lot of talk about performance scale and predictive intelligence and how AI [artificial intelligence] is going to change the world—which is all true and great —the reality is some of the biggest things customers worry about when they look at any major transition like this is, is my environment going to be secure?”

Here’s an edited look at what else Kumar had to say about customers’ Azure data spending priorities amid the coronavirus pandemic, Azure trends, the rise of Microsoft SQL Server, the Platform-as-a-Service market and Azure’s competitive advantages over Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform.

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