Microsoft Steals Away Another Top Yahoo

Perhaps a little like the old Johnny Cash song, where the main character works at an auto plant and steals a new car by taking it “One Piece at a Time,” Microsoft on Monday continued its gradual hiring away of key executives from rival Yahoo.

After a failed takeover bid for the company last year, followed by unsuccessful negotiations to work out a partnership deal with Yahoo, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has been seemingly gobbling up Yahoo one executive at a time.

In a posting on the MS Datacenters blog, the software giant announced it has hired Kevin Timmons, former Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) vice president of operations, to fill the job as general manager of Microsoft’s Data Center Services organization.

Timmons, who starts today at the company, also marks the latest senior Yahoo to switch to Microsoft.

In early December, Microsoft announced it had hired Qi Lu, previously vice president of engineering for Yahoo Search, as president of Microsoft’s Online Services Group.

According to the blog post, Microsoft’s latest hire is well prepared for his new job.

“Kevin brings a wealth of knowledge and passion in this space, most recently serving as vice president of operations at Yahoo, where he led the build-out of their datacenters and infrastructure,” wrote Arne Josefsberg, general manager of Infrastructure Services in Microsoft’s Global Foundation Services unit.

Timmons’ expertise may be useful to Microsoft as it continues to build out its own datacenters — eventually meant to spread worldwide — to support the company’s long-term vision of services in the cloud.

Microsoft’s datacenter aims

Microsoft has been pushing to deploy its cloud computing framework — a global network of datacenters — for a year, although not without a setback or two. Most recently, under the battering of the poor world economy, Microsoft delayed some deployments, including slowing the build out of one datacenter in Chicago, and another in Des Moines, Iowa, last winter.

More than a year ago, the software titan began building datacenters to support its software-plus-services vision, including its Live Mesh media connectivity and Azure services platforms — both introduced last year by Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect.

Of course, those datacenters will also be used to support Microsoft’s latest search offering — — which the company released commercially at the beginning of June. For part of its first full day of operation, Bing even overtook Yahoo as the second-place player in the search engine competition.

As more services migrate into the cloud, firms including Yahoo and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) along with Microsoft need to put the cloud infrastructure in place to support them — namely datacenters. One of the downsides of building massive datacenters, however, is the enormous demand for electricity for both power and air conditioning that the buildings demand.

“One of the key ways he [Timmons] has approached that challenge was by closely measuring efficiency at each datacenter and using PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) as a key metric — a strategy that helped build more efficient datacenters,” Josefsberg said in his post. “Kevin also brings valuable experience and know-how in the field of datacenter site selection.”

The post also revealed that Microsoft reorganized its Infrastructure Services team, which is a part of Global Foundation Services. The services group now consists of Shared Infrastructure, Programmable Infrastructure, Platform Hardware and Standards, Global Network Services, and the Data Center Services team that Timmons leads, Microsoft said.

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