Microsoft Aims for Quarterly Updates to Its 'Cloud-in-a-Box'

Enterprise and service provider customers running Microsoft's Cloud Platform System (CPS) will receive software updates on a "predictable quarterly cadence," Microsoft said recently.

According to a blog post last week by Justin Incarnato, a program manager for the Microsoft Enterprise Cloud Solutions Group, the quarterly schedule is designed "to allow for planning and ensure customers have all applicable security and functional updates."

Incarnato added that "hardware and firmware" updates will be part of the update process in "future releases," but he didn't specify a timeline.

CPS is Microsoft's latest effort to produce a so-called "cloud-in-a-box" solution, mimicking Microsoft Azure. CPS is a conglomeration of hardware and software resembling Microsoft's datacenter architecture used to deliver Azure services.

Organizations using CPS have so-called customer "stamps," per Microsoft's lingo. Each stamp runs Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and the Windows Azure Pack software. A stamp can range from a single hardware rack to four racks. Microsoft claims that a CPS product can scale to support up to 8,000 virtual machines in the four-rack configuration.

So far, Microsoft has a partnership with Dell on its CPS products, with Dell supplying the hardware portion of the product. Organizations or service providers typically might use CPS for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) purposes. One example is Capgemini, which uses CPS as the basis for its SkySight cloud-based services, including the delivery of SharePoint and Lync services.

Incarnato suggested that the patching system Microsoft devised for its CPS products involves "zero downtime" for customers. The update gets carried out though "a single PowerShell script," which updates all of the CPS components at the same time.

Microsoft validates the update packages before releasing them broadly via its own internal test racks. Individual customer stamps get validated by the CPS update engine after the fixes are applied. The update delivers security updates, too.

Installation of the CPS update packages happens automatically. The update engine tracks all of the software in the CPS stamp, as well as "firmware, drivers, services, roles and hotfixes." The update engine is designed to address failures, too. It will stop updating when a CPS stamp becomes "unhealthy," according to Incarnato. The updates are designed so that they can be run in a "disconnected environment" as well, he said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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