Microsoft weaves management technology into cloud vision

Software giant plans to dominate cloud computing market with a heterogenous management layer

Microsoft's plans for cloud computing don't stop with infrastructure and applications. Company executives say Microsoft will also provide the heterogeneous management layer that customers will need to optimize application performance on-premises or in hosted environments.

Microsoft this week kicked off its Microsoft Management Summit 2010 conference in Las Vegas, welcoming some 3,500 attendees to learn more about the vendor's products and plans for future technologies. Bob Muglia, president of the server and tools business at Microsoft, opened the event officially with a keynote speech that detailed -- with product demonstrations -- how Microsoft intends to manage customer environments from today's data centers to tomorrow's shared clouds, on-premises and off.

Starting with its Dynamic Systems Initiative 10 years ago, Microsoft envisioned an environment that would connect the workflow between development and operations, providing end-to-end management, and helping customers reduce the overhead in delivering and optimizing business applications, Muglia said. It may not have been called cloud at the time, he clarified, but Microsoft recognized the model.

"There is a huge amount of opportunity to simplify the process and reduce the costs" associated with IT, Muglia told attendees.

Microsoft has worked on products such as Visual Studio and Systems Center, partnered with vendors such as HP for storage capabilities, and utilized acquired automation and orchestration software from Opalis, to take automation to the next level to enable IT staff to work on higher-priority tasks. The Opalis technology can work across platforms and enable Microsoft in the future to provide more heterogeneous management capabilities for customers. According to Paul Ross, group product marketing manager at Microsoft, the company already broadened its management reach into VMware environments with its Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager and added Unix and Linux support to System Center as well.

"Virtualization is a major disruptive force. Microsoft offered Hyper-V in a cost-effective manner, but recognizes customers adopted VMware and we work to protect that investment for customers with our virtualization management capabilities," Ross said in a separate interview. He suggested Microsoft would also provide support for Xen virtual environments in future releases. "Opalis automates processes but also integrates across tools and platforms," Ross explained.

In his keynote, Muglia also explained how Opalis technology, available now to System Center customers, enables the orchestration needed to scale cloud resources and provide the elasticity cloud computing promises. Demonstrating a "long-distance, fully coordinated live migration" of virtual machines, which add resources to bolster application performance, Muglia showed conference attendees how "the vision of dynamic IT is becoming a reality."

IT workers today should not fear automation because it is necessary to enable such dynamic IT, according to Muglia. He said cloud is shifting the role of IT professionals as well.

"Cloud is a world-class dramatic shift. IT takes on a different and new role, jobs will change to enable higher degrees of service availability. The role running the previous generation changes," Muglia said. "Your roles all become more important going forward [because you are] doing more to enable business solutions."

Marking now as the launch of the cloud generation of IT, Muglia said the technology will "accelerate the speed of solution delivery" as well as "lower the cost of IT." By coupling technologies such as Windows Azure, server containers and new applications models, Microsoft itself is road-testing the cloud and will take lessons learned to customers by way of products.

For instance, the company demonstrated how using a Systems Center Operations Manager management pack for Windows Azure (which is expected to ship later this year), customers can grow and shrink capacity and resources on-premises or in the cloud to optimize application performance. One tool will work in both environments, Muglia said.

"The platforms are getting smarter," Muglia said.

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