Longtime Microsoft servers chief Muglia to depart

Bob MugliaJust days after reaching the 23-year notch with the software titan, Microsoft servers and tools business chief Bob Muglia plans to step down, the company announced.

The news of Muglia’s departure comes from an e-mail from CEO Steve Ballmer to all of the company’s employees in which Ballmer wrote that he decided it was time for a change atop the STB division, a decision that prompted Muglia to depart.

“Bob Muglia and I have been talking about the overall business and what is needed to accelerate our growth,” Ballmer wrote. “In this context, I have decided that now is the time to put new leadership in place for STB.”

In the e-mail, Ballmer said that Muglia will continue to run the Servers and Tools business until a new leader is found, with an eye on leaving Microsoft this summer. Ballmer writes that the company will look both inside and outside its own operations for a new leader for the group, and that Muglia will help “onboard the new leader and will also complete additional projects for me.”

In his own note to employees (obtained by ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley), Muglia says that “later this year, I’m moving on to new opportunities outside of Microsoft.”

The news of Muglia’s departure comes on the heels of the Severs and Tools Business getting back to profitability over the last few quarters, getting back to its traditional 10-plus per cent growth in sales over the last two quarters after struggling through the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009.

Muglia has been the leader of STB since 2009, and previously worked in a variety of other senior executive roles at the software giant, including gigs in the company’s developer, online services and mobile devices divisions, as well as roles with the development of major products including Office and Windows NT.

In his e-mail, Ballmer praises Muglia as “a phenomenal partner” and offered his thanks. He downplayed any disagreement or performance difficulties as part of the decision to appoint new leaders to the server group.

“This is simply recognition that all businesses go through cycles and need new and different talent to manage through those cycles,” he wrote.

Speaking to Business Insider blogger Matt Rosoff, Directions on Microsoft CEO Rob Horwitz speculated that Muglia may not be totally in line with the company’s “all-in” approach to cloud computing. But that assertion seems at odd with Muglia’s recent role at the company – at the company’s 2010 Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington DC, Muglia’s presentation centered on the company’s Azure strategy, and at the company’s Professional Developers Conference in October, he offered further details of the company’s cloud strategy. And in his own letter to fellow Microsofties (as quoted by Foley,) Muglia continues to give the strategy the thumbs-up.

“I am incredibly excited by the emergence of cloud computing, and the opportunity it represents to shape business and the way people live for years to come,” he wrote. “I have deeply enjoyed my role in positioning Microsoft as a leader and innovator in cloud computing.”

Muglia is the fourth top-level Microsoft exec to leave Redmond over the last six months. In the fall of 2010, the company said goodbye to Robbe Bach, who headed up its Entertainment and Devices division, followed in short order by Stephen Elop, who had been president of its business division. And in October, chief software architect Ray Ozzie announced his plans to leave the company.