Microsoft Takes a New Approach to the Cloud

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2012-01-17 Print this article Print

Microsoft is leveraging existing products and revamping others to bring multiple flavors of the cloud to businesses seeking an IT paradigm shift.

REDMOND, Wash.-"Cloud" was the big word at Microsoft's recent Private Cloud Reviewers' Workshop here. There were many other words uttered, such as System Center 2012, Windows Azure, Hyper-V and so forth, but "cloud" seemed to be spoken the most.

However, whenever presenters during the event-which ran the week of Jan. 9-mentioned the cloud, they were really talking about much more than standard view of cloud technology. Microsoft's utterances of a word that has come to mean many different things to many people was meant to clarify, not further confuse. Simply put, the term "cloud" was meant to encourage, not blur visions of future IT.

In the keynote session of the workshop, Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business unit, probably explained it best by showing that the cloud (at least in Microsoft's view) is all about optimizing business. Anderson said clouds (public, private or hybrid) share four common technologies: virtualization, identity, management and development. He said it is that gang of technologies Microsoft uses to build public and private clouds.

Microsoft's public clouds are part of the Windows Azure platform, while the private clouds fall under the mantle of Windows Server and Microsoft System Center. Anderson said private and public clouds have been distinct and separate entities in Microsoft's view, and that Microsoft's current tool set does not support moving from a public cloud to a private cloud or vice versa seamlessly, further highlighting the distinction between the two.

According to Anderson, System Center 2012 will become the platform for provisioning, managing and deploying private cloud technologies using Microsoft technology, and that the software giant has put significant effort into designing private cloud capabilities into platform.

During the event here, Microsoft engineers demonstrated many of the new capabilities that System Center 2012 will offer IT managers, and attendees were given hands-on exercises to further help define how System Center 2012 will fit into the management of private clouds.

Anderson said the primary ideologies System Center 2012 brings to the data center include a flexible and cost-effective infrastructure that works with what IT administrators already own and know, and applications that ensure predictable service levels with deep application insight. In addition, the platform will offer a common toolset for managing the cloud environment.

These ideologies will help enterprises better leverage System Center 2012 in their cloud environments, according to Microsoft officials. Microsoft has also correctly identified all of the key elements- elasticity, reliable service delivery, automation and self-service capabilities-needed for effectively using private clouds. Each element is represented in System Center 2012 with wizards and menus that drive the creation of the parts that make up the whole of a private cloud.

Other themes presented during the workshop included the reliance on virtualization, ease of mobility and integrated management, all of which is focused on making private cloud access easier for the user and simpler for the administrator. For example, System Center 2012's Configuration Manager supports developing hypervisor-based virtual servers from bare metal systems, offering almost instantaneous, hands-off VM creation. Much of the same can be said for virtual networks, where Configuration Manager supports the creation of a virtual network infrastructure with just a few mouse clicks. Those features and others add up to easier deployment and simplified management of private clouds.

Microsoft has a lot at stake, at least when it comes to the cloud. The company faces stiff competition from a variety companies ranging from VMware to IBM to Oracle, all of which are working to establish a leadership in cloud transformation and related services.

Add to that the evolution of the data center, where cloud services are expanding at exponential rates, and it becomes evident that Microsoft needs a home run in the cloud-enablement market to maintain the relevancy of their products. Data centers are shifting from client-server type technology-an environment that Microsoft has mastered-to cloud-based applications, services and virtualization, a space that Microsoft needs to embrace to maintain market share. By re-engineering their technologies for the cloud, Microsoft officials are working to secure the company's future.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at

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