Microsoft infrastructure stack takes to the clouds

Mostly semantics converting Windows, System Center to private cloud status

Six months after launching its Azure cloud OS, Microsoft is using the same cloud terminology to describe its stack of data center infrastructure software.

At its annual Microsoft Management Summit, Microsoft laid out its vision of a corporate IT world that straddles "public clouds and private clouds."

The announcement comes a week after VMware made a similar announcement around private clouds.

But rather than technology and architecture changes, Microsoft is using semantics to align its existing stack of infrastructure and management software with the trendiest topic in network computing.

Microsoft's "private cloud platform" is built on a familiar IT combination of Microsoft software. And the cloud moniker is more or less the third phase of Microsoft's management platform that began in 2003 as the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), morphed into Dynamic IT and is now its public cloud/private cloud strategy.

"Think about the private cloud as your internal data center optimized for performance and cost and with the compatibility with your existing applications all built on tools you know today - Windows Server and System Center," said Bob Kelly, Microsoft's corporate vice president for infrastructure server marketing, during his opening keynote Tuesday. "We believe that business enterprise customers will demand the same levels of reliability and predictability [found in the public cloud] for their internal data centers."

The one piece that many corporate IT shops may not be up to speed with at this point is virtualization, which Microsoft has built into Windows Server with Hyper-V and System Center with its Virtual Machine Manager.

Both of those products will get more sophisticated as new versions are rolled out in the next six months.

Microsoft also is aligning its Visual Studio development tools and .Net platform with both of its cloud environments to make it easy for users to build applications that straddle the two.

While little of this is new, Microsoft is clearly beginning to turn its marketing message toward the cloud phenomenon and create a bridge to its Azure platform for customers already committed to Windows infrastructure internally.

"We think customers will not standardize on one cloud," Kelly said. "We think it will be critical to deploy applications on premises and federate across two clouds."

To that end, Microsoft is building cloud federation features into a forthcoming version of Virtual Machine Manager that will let users manage from a single console virtual machines that are spread across public and private clouds.

Microsoft also is introducing enhancements to its Web platform with Internet Information Server 7.5 and supporting ASP.Net on its Server Core, a scaled down installation of Windows Server 2008. The platform will rely heavily on PowerShell, Microsoft's new scripting technology.

And Microsoft is developing new technologies such as server applications virtualization so users can create application and operating system images that can be combined on the fly for quick and efficient deployment on any cloud-based environment.Microsoft said public clouds will eventually take on a number of key characteristics.

"Availability will be king," Kelly said. He also said public clouds will be distributed and heterogeneous in nature and be able to expand and contract.

"These four elements are absolutely critical to deliver that service, that foundation to the private cloud," Kelly said.

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