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Expedition Cloud: a once-in-a-generation paradigm shift

Exploring, settling, and shaping a wild new frontier: the cloud

A decade ago, experts at Microsoft began excitedly plotting to move the entire enterprise’s on-premises operations into the cloud. In those early days, the challenges were daunting. Progressing our digital transformation has meant moving away from traditional hybrid infrastructure to adopt a modern environment that relies on cloud identities and services. 

Core Services Engineering and Operations (CSEO), formerly Microsoft IT, has been working for over a decade to fulfill the company’s commitment to becoming a cloud-first organization. We have moved vital business assets to the cloud, including more than 90% of our IT resources to date, building toward a future where all devices that tap into those resources will be cloud-connected.

Paradigm shift

Brad Wright, one of the leaders driving the move to the cloud at Microsoft, knew that embracing cloud computing would challenge everything the team knew to be true about IT, catapulting the company to the forefront of this fundamental industry shift.

Since then, modern governance has helped ensure that our cloud technology keeps our data secure all along the way.


Cloud strategy

When Microsoft first started its enterprise-wide transition to the cloud, the company was running on a varied, complex catalog of as many as 1,800 apps. Determining the best way to transition to cloud technology required a dedicated strategy effort to decide what would move to the cloud, in what order, and by what migration method. Strategists focused on using the move to the cloud to make Microsoft more efficient and effective by creating a robust infrastructure that could enable new technologies in the future.

Microsoft Senior Service Engineer Mel Lowe says the migration from on-premises resources and costly data centers to cloud technology is just like moving from a sprawling estate home to a cool new condo downtown. You can’t keep 20-30 years of accumulated stuff, you’ve got to clean house before you go, and you’ll need a detailed strategy to get you through the move. Lowe and her team of engineers focused on making the move to the cloud work from the technology, process, and tools perspectives, aiming to drive innovation, efficiency, and agility for the long haul.


At the start of Microsoft’s journey to the cloud, our supply chain was generating more than a terabyte of data every day. The data was then stored in any number of spreadsheets and databases all over the world, few of which were connected by the cloud. That meant only a fraction of the data collected was being analyzed and used, and it could take hours or even days to answer data queries and generate reports.

CSEO knew when investigating Microsoft’s supply chain—from sourcing to plan, manufacturing to support, delivery to logistics—would enable a key transformation in operations. Using Microsoft Power BI, data analytics, and cloud technology, Darren Coil and his team of supply chain business technologies experts made refactoring a key part of the Expedition Cloud journey.


MS Sales, Microsoft’s revenue reporting system, has been the beating heart of financial tracking and billing across the company for over 20 years. As part of Microsoft’s enterprise-wide, cloud-based digital transformation, the company isn’t just releasing products faster, it’s handling billions of microtransactions. When Principal IT Architect Robert Venable realized that MS Sales was facing imminent collapse, he and his team started reimagining the application.


With over 1,500 data sources and 21 years of sales data to organize and manage, rearchitecting MS Sales was a weighty challenge. The result of their efforts is a brand new, cloud-based, scalable solution, fully rearchitected to support all of Microsoft’s past, present, and future financial success.


When Microsoft’s global sales experience (GSX) platform became outdated and unwieldy, the problem affected more than 40,000 sales and marketing employees. Platform customizations to the GSX system were resulting in significant management delays, and disparate tools and segmented technologies were causing connectivity problems. The ecosystem was failing to synchronize five separate CRM instances, and that unreliable, inconsistent data was beginning to affect sales productivity.

When Microsoft realized that the data was out of sync across the five CRM instances during a sales forecasting process, Principal Software Engineer, Deron Daum, knew it was time to make a change. Making a clean break from the highly customized and cumbersome GSX ecosystem allowed Microsoft to simplify its environment with a custom, cloud-based SaaS solution that uses Dynamics 365 for sales.

Cloud security

When Microsoft started planning to move the company’s operations to the cloud, we quickly realized that digital security is a significantly different challenge than securing on-premises data centers. Moving vital business assets to the cloud requires an entirely new security paradigm that can increase our control over information while still keeping pace with the changing security landscape. Our goal is for cloud identities and services to actively streamline how we support our mobile workforce and keep our data secure.

Microsoft Cloud Security Expert Rob Polly led the security element of the company’s journey to the cloud to ensure that the company was evolving specifically for cloud security and addressing privacy concerns, geopolitical issues, and data sovereignty regulations. As more and more devices are designed to connect to the intelligent cloud, Microsoft is planning initiatives that will allow us to provide data protection in a device-agnostic, cloud-only ecosystem.

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