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Microsoft's Mitra Azizirad on the Changing Roles of Dev and Ops

Listening to Mitra Azizirad, GM of Microsoft's Developer Tools Marketing & Sales group, talk about Redmond's plans for its venerable Visual Studio IDE and her long career with the company, I was reminded again why I feel so lucky to be on the tech beat: Almost every day I get to talk with smart people who love what they do.

Azizirad was in San Francisco last week with "Soma" Somasegar, VP of Microsoft's Developer Division, speaking with a group of reporters informally about MS developer tools. (More on that conversation in Visual Studio Magazine.) She started at Microsoft as an architectural engineer based in Washington D.C. back in 1992, which gives her a decades-long perspective on the evolution of the role of the developer in the enterprise.

"These are really exciting times for people in our business," Azizirad said. "Exciting, but unpredictable. No day looks the same at this point. People's roles in the enterprise are changing. And the conversations we're having these days are very different from the conversations we had a few years ago."

Talking with execs about application metrics, for example.

"You find yourself talking with the CIO and CMO about features that have business value and sustaining those throughout a regular cadence," she said. "And how often will we rev certain features? And what are the key performance issues? What are the bottlenecks from a development perspective? How do you recognize those bottlenecks and move past them? How are you looking at where the bugs are showing up and how quickly can you go in and solve for those? These are conversations you would never have had outside the development teams before."

Azizirad is also seeing a significant shift in Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) decision making within the enterprise. Although developers still make the lion's share of those decisions, about a third is now made by operations, she said.

"Developers are still making most of those decisions," she said, "but it used to be just developers. Operations is coming up really quickly in that regard. They're saying, we're not just waiting for you to make the choice; we know what we need on this end, too. So connecting those teams is sometimes a big part of what we do."

But making those connections, Azizirad added, is rarely just about the capabilities of the technology.

"At a certain level, these are cultural issues," she said. "Developers use this set of tools and this set of platforms; operations uses this other set of tools and platforms. Getting past those differences and bringing those groups together has become a core part of a cultural shift within the enterprise."

A shift, she added, that is also being driven by the demands of accelerating software delivery cycles.

"They simply need to come together, because you no longer have these long release cycles," she said. "Gone are the days when you could take three months to plan, nine months to build, and six months to test. When we talk to organizations today, we may start out talking to individuals, but at some point, they're all in the room together."

Microsoft has, itself, committed to rapid update "cadence" of Visual Studio that, along with the usual bug fixes and performance enhancements, includes new functionality, beginning with April's release of Update 2. Since it was launched back in September, Visual Studio 2012 has garnered more than 4 million downloads, the company reports. That's the fastest uptake of any version of VS in the history of the company.

"I've seen just a few truly pivotal shifts in the industry since I joined Microsoft," Azizirad said. "They almost always start with the developer, and I believe that we're seeing one of them now. It's an amazing thing to be a part of."

Posted by John K. Waters on 05/10/2013 at 10:53 AM


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