DevOps at Microsoft with Martin Woodward

The Windows operating system is one of the most widely used pieces of software in history. Windows was started before there was any alternative to a monolithic codebase, because Microsoft was building software before the Internet was widely used by consumers. Networked computers gave rise to web applications, and software engineers began to rethink how to build everything.

Software development got reimagined with agile. Monolithic codebases got broken up into service-oriented architecture. Instead of going to a store to buy a box with software in it, users downloaded software from the Internet, and that software was regularly updated.

Software that is regularly updated needs to be regularly tested. Instead of a single round of testing for every round of boxed software that was shipped to a store, continuous testing and delivery gradually became the norm. The process of releasing and operating software became its own set of engineering challenges–which was tackled by the “operations” or “sys admin” team at a software company.

Now there were two different sets of engineers–those who were developing the software and those who were operating the software. The incentives of these two types of engineers were not completely aligned. The software developers wanted to build software quickly and release new features. The operators wanted things to release software slowly, because if something broke then the operators were the first line of defense for fixing it.

These problems between development and operations gave rise to the “DevOps” movement, in which developers and operations started working more closely together and sharing responsibilities. Incentives became aligned, and new types of software was created to facilitate more harmonious relationships between developers and operations–for example, continuous delivery pipelines.

Today, most enterprises are still undergoing a transformation from monolithic software release cycles to continuous delivery. This is often referred to as a “DevOps Transformation”. A DevOps Transformation requires the entire organization to reorient itself around faster software release cycles. This can be a painful process, and we have covered it in many past shows. Hearing case studies from enterprises can be helpful for figuring out how to reorient your own enterprise.

Microsoft is a useful case study in shifting towards DevOps. Windows is perhaps the biggest monolithic codebase in history. The fact that Microsoft could rearchitect Windows to be easier to work with should provide some reassurance to other enterprises who are currently undergoing their own migrations.

Martin Woodward has been at Microsoft for 13 years and he joins the show to talk about how software delivery within the company has evolved. We discussed the move from boxed software delivery to delivery via the cloud, and focused on a few specific, longstanding products such as Windows. Martin has been part of the effort to build Azure DevOps, which is a product that offers similar tools to the ones Microsoft built internally for DevOps as a service. We also talk about the specific difficulties that enterprises often have when moving toward DevOps. Full disclosure: Microsoft is a sponsor of Software Engineering Daily.


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