Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft’s server and tools business, will step down after 23 years at the company.

His departure comes at the request of chief executive Steve Ballmer, who said in a Monday e-mail to employees that Microsoft is moving to a more cloud-centric strategy.

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“I have decided that now is the time to put new leadership in place for STB,” Ballmer wrote. “This is simply recognition that all businesses go through cycles and need new and different talent to manage through those cycles.”

Muglia will leave Microsoft at some point this summer. He will continue to run STB as Ballmer conducts his search for a replacement.

Ballmer touted the success of its $15 billion servers and tools branch, but said Microsoft is “now ready to build on our success and move forward into the era of cloud computing.”

That being said, “the best time to think about change is when you are in a position of strength,” he said.

Muglia was named president of STB in January 2009 after serving as the division’s senior vice president. Since joining Microsoft in 1988, he has also led its developer, Office, and mobile devices divisions, and parts of Windows NT and its online services business.

In an e-mail to staff posted by ZDNet, Muglia stressed the importance of integrity and said he was “moving on to new opportunities outside of Microsoft.”

Muglia did not discuss the specifics surrounding his departure, but he said that after he leaves, he “will continue to do everything I can to help Microsoft, STB, and all of you.”

Muglia had to do a little backpedaling in November when he suggested in an interview that Microsoft’s Silverlight strategy had shifted. Silverlight will continue to be a cross-platform solution, “but HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything, including (Apple’s) iOS platform,” Muglia told ZDNet.

In a subsequent blog post, Muglia stressed that Silverlight was still a top priority for Microsoft and that the company was working hard on the next release. “It will continue to be cross-browser and cross-platform, and run on Windows and Mac,” he wrote.