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Channeling the Cloud

Why Microsoft Calls Windows Server 2012 a Cloud OS

There are four key reasons Microsoft is touting its latest server as the start of a new cloud era. But will they be enough to seriously challenge VMware or Amazon?

Microsoft is touting its latest server operating system as a "cloud OS." The release of Windows Server 2012 culminates a four-year engineering effort to build a common architecture for IT to develop and deploy applications on private, hybrid and public clouds.

Calling it a cloud OS lets customers compare it to other cloud infrastructure OSes, as well as open source software distributions and VMware proprietary VM and cloud software portfolio.

With the emergence of apps designed for various computing and mobile device types, Microsoft wants developers to build server-side applications in its new Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5 using Visual Studio 2012. It also wants developers to have the ability to deploy these apps on Windows Server 2012 in their datacenters, hosted by third-party cloud providers such as Hostway and Rackspace, or in its own Windows Azure public cloud -- or any combination of those.

In a launch video, Bill Laing, corporate VP of the Microsoft Server and Cloud Division, pointed to four key attributes that makes Windows Server 2012 a cloud OS:

  1. Scalable and elastic: The latest generation of Hyper-V lets a customer scale from one to thousands of VMs as workloads dictate. It supports up to 320 logical processors and 4TB of RAM per server, and Laing said it can virtualize 99 percent of all SQL Server databases. The new OS can run large VMs of up to 64 virtual processors and 1TB of memory per VM. So far, Laing said it has scaled 8,000 VMs per cluster.

  2. Shared resources: Windows Server 2012 is architected for multi-tenancy, which is critical for ensuring the workloads of a given group, organizational unit or customer don't impact others. Combined with System Center 2012 SP1, Windows Server 2012 enables software-defined networking, which means "you can easily and dynamically provision isolated virtual networks running on the same physical fabric," explained Jeff Woolsey, a principal program manager for Windows Server and Cloud at Microsoft.

  3. Always-on: A feature called live migration provides VM mobility, which facilitates the movement of VMs from one physical server to another locally or over a wide area network. This cluster-aware feature is designed to provide continuous availability during patches, upgrades or failures.

  4. Automation and self-service: Users in departments can self-provision compute and storage resources. Windows Server 2012 enables automation with more than 2,400 new Windows PowerShell cmdlets, designed to eliminate manual tasks and allow IT to manage massive amounts of servers. Combined with System Center 2012, Windows Server 2012 offers automation via user-defined policies.

Microsoft makes a good case for Windows Server as a cloud OS, and it should appeal to its installed base as customers build new apps for the cloud. But customers will determine whether Windows Server 2012, combined with System Center, is a viable alternative to the VMware cloud stack or open source and Amazon Web Services-compatible alternatives

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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