Windows Server 2012 Dubbed the 'Cloud OS' by Microsoft

As the new operating system is officially launched, Microsoft details how it enables highly scalable cloud computing from any device anywhere, but keeps corporate data secure.

Windows Server 2012 Day is finally here, as Microsoft officially launches the server operating system that's been in development for four years and is geared to serve the current needs of IT for secure but reliable access by workers to corporate data and applications regardless of their location and type of device they are using.

Microsoft experts from the Server and Tools businesses delivered a live streaming presentation Sept. 4, doing a deep dive on Windows Server 2012 features in the data center, in the development and deployment of applications and in the delivery of what the company calls "people-centric IT."

Microsoft officials have dubbed Windows Server 2012 the "Cloud OS," saying it maximizes the use of cloud computing with the reliability, scalability, flexibility and performance capabilities that are built into the OS.

"Today is a momentous day for us," said Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools business, comparing this launch to the release of Windows NT, which ushered in the client-server era of computing in 1993.

Some of the IT trends that are reflected in Windows Server 2012 are ones that have been discussed repeatedly in IT of late: the consumerization of IT, bring your own device (BYOD), the cloud and big data.

"You want to be able to connect the world's data," Nadella said. "You want to be able to blend the data that you have in your enterprise with the world's information to create new value."

Despite the popularity of cloud computing to help companies reduce the costs to procure and manage hardware, the compute cycles still have to be generated on servers somewhere. Bill Laing, corporate vice president in the Server and Tools business unit, detailed some of the horsepower Windows Server 2012 delivers in a server environment, be it on-premise or at a cloud service provider such as Rackspace, one of several Microsoft partners announcing support for the new OS. Dell introduced new PowerEdge servers running the new OS, and chip-maker Advanced Micro Devices announced that recently introduced Opteron 4200 and 6200 series processor are now optimized to run Windows Server 2012.

Windows Server 2012 can virtualize more than 99 percent of all SQL databases, and support virtual machines (VMs) with 64 virtual processors and 1 terabyte (TB) of memory per VM, and 8,000 VMs per cluster, Laing said.

"You want to virtualize everything, even those workloads considered nonvirtualizeable," said Jeff Woolsey, principal program manager lead for Servers and Tools. He mentioned SharePoint, Exchange and Dynamics CRM as examples of high-demand workloads that use dozens of processor cores, gigabytes of memory, and have high input-output (I/O) demands.

In software application development, Windows Server 2012 includes .NET 4.5, the Microsoft platform for developing apps to run in Windows.

The development tools are designed to make the apps cloud scalable, flexible and easy to develop, run in a hybrid cloud environment and enable a "rapid, dynamic application lifecycle," said Scott Guthrie, another corporate vice president in Server and Tools. The goal is to create apps that run in either Windows Server 2012 for on-premise data centers or Windows Azure, the cloud version of the OS.

To make the picture complete, Microsoft detailed how Windows Server 2012 delivers corporate data securely to employees on any device anywhere, what it called "people-centric IT."

"Having a common identity system is critical to being able to do this," said Brad Anderson, another corporate vice president in Server and Tools.

To that end, Windows Server 2012 synchronizes Microsoft Active Directory credentials from on-premise with Windows Azure Directory in the cloud, Anderson said. Active Directory is the "underpinning" of Microsoft Share Point for document sharing and Windows Intune for device and desktop management.

The Windows Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) for delivering apps and desktop images to end point devices has also been improved to make deployment easier, requiring no more than 13 clicks to provision a VDI, he said.

Corporate apps and data are secured regardless of the end user device with a security protocol that has two requirements, Anderson said: it must require a password at the point at which the use powers up the device and the data must be encrypted.

With Windows Server 2012, Microsoft believes it has a server OS for virtual and cloud environments that is competitive with VMware, the virtualization market share leader. Microsoft has even launched a "Switch to Hyper-V" campaign to get VMware customers to switch to Microsoft, whose virtualization hypervisor is called Hyper-V.

But VMware was compelled to trash talk Microsoft at its recent VMworld 2012 conference.

"In the virtualization space their strategy for the last seven years has been to say 'Our product is good enough,'" former VMware CEO Paul Maritz said of Microsoft.

Maritz said Microsoft is behind the times because enterprise customers' demands are not just for server virtualization, but for virtualization of the entire data center, including storage, and networking.

However, those are the areas in the data center that Windows Server 2012 reaches into, said Microsoft's Nadella.

"You need to take all the resources of the data center-compute, storage and network-bring them together and share them," he said.