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Channeling the Cloud

Microsoft, HP, VMware and Rackspace: The War of the Cloud OSes

With the cloud landscape growing more crowded, the upcoming Windows Azure Pack could be what raises Microsoft's Cloud OS above the fray.

Remember the days when server OS suppliers jockeyed to get the most out of the hardware their OSes were running on? Of course, they still do that but these days it's all about the cloud OS. That's why Microsoft last fall began calling the combination of Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012 and Windows Azure the "Cloud OS."

Hewlett-Packard unabashedly did the same last month, calling its new cloud software and hardware its HP Cloud OS. While they have the same name, the HP and Microsoft Cloud OSes offer something else in common: They're built on the notion of providing a common operating environment in a private cloud running in a customer datacenter, a third-party hosting provider or in their own public clouds.

HP and Microsoft aren't the only ones that share that philosophy. Among others, VMware in late May also outlined plans to offer what it calls the VMware Hybrid Cloud Service. Based on vCloud Director, the VMware Hybrid Cloud will let customers run workloads on VMware infrastructure on-premises, in its forthcoming public cloud or in a hybrid architecture combining the two or via its third-party partners.

Another is Rackspace, which now offers its own Private Cloud Software, designed to let customers run the same workloads built for its public cloud service in their datacenters. IBM has a similar strategy with its SmartCloud private and public cloud services.

So where does that leave the Microsoft Cloud OS? Microsoft last month revealed the latest and potentially most critical component, called the Windows Azure Pack, at its TechEd conference in New Orleans. The Windows Azure Pack provides the same multi-tenant cloud service available in Windows Azure and is designed to run on top of Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012, the R2 versions of which are now in preview and set to ship by year's end.

The Windows Azure Pack, which Microsoft will offer free with Windows Server and System Center, offers the portal experience available in the public cloud service. It'll let administrators and partners self-provision cloud capacity out of Windows Server just as they do when using Windows Azure.

Administrators can create user accounts, configure and manage clouds, and establish quotas and pricing for clients. They can also set up a self-service management portal for tenants for provisioning, monitoring and managing VMs, the Windows Azure Service Bus and Web sites.

The latter enables high-density Web hosting. It can run up to 5,000 Web servers on a single Windows Server instance, just as if it were running in Windows Azure. Microsoft is even offering REST-based APIs so developers can build applications with a common interface, whether they're running on internal Cloud OS-based clouds, in Windows Azure, or in hosted Windows Server clouds that partners operate or procure for their customers.

The Windows Azure Pack promises to be a key component in Microsoft's bid to win the Cloud OS battle.

More Columns by Jeff Schwartz:

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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