Microsoft interview

As the cloud approaches, Microsoft Gulf’s general manager Charbel Fakhoury reveals just how the company plans to ensure CIOs don’t drown in the coming storm.

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Microsoft interview FAKHOURY: Computing via the cloud will be a delivered service, like electricity or water are.
By  Ben Furfie Published  October 11, 2010

As the cloud approaches, Microsoft Gulf’s general manager Charbel Fakhoury reveals just how the company plans to ensure CIOs don’t drown in the coming storm.

Relaxing into the comfy couches in one of the many meeting rooms at Microsoft Gulf’s headquarters, Charbel Fakhoury excitedly begins talking about the company’s next big gadget, Kinect for the Xbox 360, after finding out that many years ago I was a games journalist. “Have you been on it yet?,” he asks with a wide grin, just like a child has when they show off their latest toy to their friends. “It’s amazing isn’t it?”

Fakhoury is the very epitome of a Microsoft executive. No tie, top button opened, relaxed posture, but still immaculately dressed. However, despite his calm, collected demeanour, he still has the ability to leave no doubt that there is a highly developed business acumen behind all the relaxed persona.

Of course, while its games business is the naturally exciting part of Microsoft, he is no less enthusiastic about many of the other technologies the company is currently working on. “If you look back over the last couple of years, the big focus of discussion with the CIOs has been how we can help to save them money, save time; essentially do what they expect as a CIO for their business.”

Though it might lack the glitz and the glamour of its Xbox division, one space that is genuinely generating as much of a buzz around Microsoft’s office today is cloud computing. It’s a level of excitement that is reflected in the its commitment to the space.

“If you look today at Microsoft’s cloud strategy in the enterprise space, we have made a commitment as a company to play on all three layers of the cloud; on the infrastructure-as-a-service layer, on the platform-as-a-service layer and on software-as-a-service layer,” he explains.

The company’s strategy when it comes to cloud is one – it claims – that has been designed to fit in with what CIOs have told Microsoft they need, specifically, the power of cloud, with the flexibility to decide how they want and need to deploy it.

“We’re committed to being able to deliver cloud services, regardless of whether the customer decides they want it hosting at our own datacentres, entirely on premises, or a mix of the two. In order to achieve that, our partners will be crucial. Who they are might change depending on the location: some might be the telecoms companies, while others might be standalone datacentre operators. In other countries, partners will still play an even stronger part when regulations dictate that most, if not all, services are hosted on the private cloud,” he adds.

This desire to involve its partners is crucial in order to not just achieve success in the cloud from Microsoft’s perspective, but to ensure that the cloud services being offered and implemented, are suitable for the needs of the customer. “We’re starting to prepare our partners on how they can support their customers, how they can migrate them and how they can implement private clouds,” reveals Fakhoury. “At the same time, we want to prepare them for the next six to 12 months. If a customer chooses to buy a service directly from Microsoft datacentres, how can they do that?”

When asked what the challenges would be for Microsoft’s partner model when a customer said that it wanted to go through the low-cost model of hosting on a public cloud – a model that had the potential to cut the partner out of the deal entirely, Fakhoury stresses that Microsoft is working to ensure that the partner is rewarded, regardless of the level of involvement in the project – even if it is just a referral.

“We’re absolutely committed to the partner model,” he says. “Our partners will be selling our public cloud services from our own datacentres. At the same time, we’re engaging our partners with our local cloud hosters so they can be sure they are selling the same service, or how they can work with us to ensure that they still benefit even if it is us that implements it or it is a private cloud.”

The company’s emphasis on the importance of its partner network is reflected in its approach to its own presence throughout the Middle East. “I remember almost ten years ago, we decided that we needed to an office in every country. So if you look today – take the GCC – we have offices in Oman, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, in Kuwait, in Jeddah, in Riyadh. We believe that in order for you to be able to understand the local needs, you need to have people on the ground, and importantly, you need to have people from those respective countries,” says Fakhoury “You need people who can be responsive, but at the same time, good ambassadors for Microsoft in those countries.

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