Alumnus and Microsoft Inventor Tapping Cloud Computing Potential
Christian Belady MA’90
When his head isn’t in the clouds, what does one of Microsoft’s top inventors do to blow off steam? Christian Belady MA’90 slides into a bright yellow tricked-out Porsche and hits the racetrack.
Belady says it’s not about speed.
It’s about how you take the turns, especially the first one. It’s like life, where every decision you make today impacts every decision you make in the future. “It may be perceived as a dangerous thing, but that’s what I do, and it’s what clears my mind and energizes me,” he explained.
Belady is the general manager of Data Center Services for Microsoft’s Global Foundation Services. Translation? He helps build, manage and breathe life into the entire world of cloud computing at Microsoft. With the prevalence of commercial products like Microsoft’s Office 365, and a plethora of cloud services like competitors’ Dropbox and iCloud, Belady has his two-minute elevator speech down.
You log on to your computer to access your email, right? No, you log on to your Internet service provider’s server. Do you know where that server is? It’s somewhere out there in the ‘cloud,’ meaning it’s hosted in someone’s data center. Do you notice that wherever you are on the planet, you can always log on? That’s cloud computing. It’s oversimplified, but it’s essentially a resource that holds your data and keeps it secure and available through any communication device anywhere and anytime.”
Microsoft, just one provider of cloud services, supports more than 1 billion customers and 20 million businesses in 76 countries. And Belady has been a key player in building this business. As the director of hardware architecture in the Extreme Computing Group at Microsoft Research, he managed the team that explored hardware opportunities related to the future of the client (hardware) plus cloud computing. When he started at Microsoft in 2007, he was the principal infrastructure architect, improving efficiency and cost in the company’s data center infrastructure.
Belady (left), shown with his racing friends and his yellow Porsche, says time on the racetrack helps clear his mind and energize him.
And Belady is a true believer.
He thinks that an increasing number of businesses have migrated over to the cloud because “it’s more financially efficient than running your own IT department and data center. With the scale of the cloud provider, they’ll be able to do things that an enterprise IT operation could never do because they don’t have the scale.” A modern-day techno-prophet, Belady urges businesses: “Go out into the cloud.”
Before Microsoft, but after earning engineering degrees from Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Belady enrolled at UT Dallas. Pursuing a master’s degree in international management studies was the “inflection point” in his career. “Ironically, my career didn’t really start until I finished my degree in business from UT Dallas,” said Belady, who was named a 2010 distinguished alumnus. “Mixing disciplines is one of the most valuable things you can do in your career.”
After serving on the board of UT Dallas’ former alumni association, including one year as president, Belady became a “distinguished technologist” for Hewlett-Packard, where he taught the art of innovation to HP employees around the country. Now at Microsoft, Belady lives on Mercer Island, Wash., with his wife, Joan, and their two teenagers. Their kids are about the same age Belady was when he received encouragement for his school chemistry lab experiments—even those that went awry—from his father, who nurtured his creativity and innovation from a young age.
Belady still values experimental whimsy, blending his notions of philosophy, technology and politics.
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“I believe the cloud is going to be a forcing function for political and economic change on the global community. When I really think about it, what’s fascinating is that I see the cloud as more of an organism. This organism, the cloud, is getting more and more pervasive around the globe. It’s going to mutate around countries that aren’t cloud-friendly and isolate them. Slowly, businesses inside of those countries will start wanting to move their operations outside the country because they won’t be able to compete. As a result, countries will have to change their policies. The cloud then may become a forcing function that will help create a cloud-friendly policy.”
Big-picture thinking is intuitive for Belady, who weighs in as an author on a Microsoft blog, globalfoundationservices.com, and has come up with 100 inventions to make computing hardware more powerful and energy-efficient. An early architect of The Green Grid, Belady says this group of companies, which looks at data center energy efficiency, made what is his pride-and-joy contribution to the industry. Now an industry standard, power usage effectiveness (PUE) is a measure of how efficiently a computer data center uses its power.
“I’ve always said that low cost and sustainability are synonymous. My interest is always to get more out of less by looking at things differently and to continue to drive a healthy conversation in the industry around best practices that benefit our planet, customers and communities.”
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