NEW ORLEANS—As Microsoft Corp. works to live up to its promise to bring revolutionary changes to the data center, the Redmond, Wash., software company Tuesday announced the road map for its initiative to create a dynamic data center.
Microsofts vision for the dynamic data center involves using a collection of its own software to manage and provision the data center, as well as Windows-certified servers, storage and networking switches connected in a well-defined network topology that could be changed on the fly, Eric Berg, a product manager for Windows Server marketing, told eWEEK in an interview here at the , or WinHEC.
Microsoft also on Tuesday announced that several new hardware partners, including Fujitsu, NEC and IBM, has signed up to support its Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) and that they will be testing and validating Microsofts Automated Deployment Systems (ADS) on their hardware and integrating this with their deployment solutions.
Microsoft shipped the first deliverable for DSI with the beta release of Automated Deployment Services for Windows Server 2003 last month. This will be a free add-on feature for the Windows Server 2003 Enterprise or Datacenter Editions, but the companys vision for reducing complexity in the data center wont be realized for some time.
To achieve this goal, Microsoft believes it needs to align itself and its products around a new software architecture, based on its System Definition Model (SDM)—essentially an XML-based schema for easily instrumenting systems, applications and other infrastructure components during the development of those elements.
While this is currently a Microsoft model, the company is working with its partners to ratify it. The SDM will be published and discussed further at Microsofts Professional Developers Conference later this year, Berg said.
Microsoft has not decided specifically how it will make this an industrywide initiative, but already has the support of a large number of its partners. “We will open up the SDM for others to support,” Berg said. “And, in addition, there will be a wide set of products from ISVs, hardware vendors and system integrators that will support this new software architecture based on the SDM.”
Microsoft products like Visual Studio .Net will support the SDM and make it easier to develop applications that are operationally aware, while server software like SQL and Exchange will also support it to provision and manage those servers.
“Windows servers will be able to support the SDM to support things like automated resource management. Microsoft would also be making specific investments in its management tools team to support SDM and DSI going forward,” Berg said.
The first implementation of the SDM will be delivered in the next version of Microsofts Visual Studio development tool, due early next year. Following that release will be an SDM implementation in Microsoft Operations Manager 2004, due next summer, and then in the forthcoming Systems Center suite.
“Our first version of ADS focuses on server provisioning so, for the dynamic data center, we are going to extend that to care about storage and networking switches as well,” Berg said.
To kick-start the initiative, Microsoft on Tuesday released a technical white paper titled “Building a Dynamic Datacenter,” which discusses hardware requirements and innovation ideas as well as what Microsofts software architecture looks like, he said.
This provided fodder for discussions between Microsoft and its hardware partners about how they could innovate on the hardware underneath and what interfaces Microsoft needs to expose above for them to differentiate on.
As first reported by eWEEK, Microsoft in February floated the idea of the virtual data center, saying it was committed to making it an industrywide initiative.
For its part, Microsoft said at that time it would provide a system definition model, resource virtualization and partitioning, operational automation, and management of APIs and solutions.
“What were now doing is thinking about what Windows Server can do on the deployment and operation and policy of how those applications are written and how server applications such as Exchange or SQL take advantage of them,” Bill Veghte, Microsofts corporate vice president of the Windows Server group, said at that time, declining to elaborate further.
In his keynote address at WinHEC on Tuesday, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates also talked about the changes to come in the data center.
Windows Server 2003 has brought built-in provisioning across the network in an automated process, which was a major advance and formed part of Microsofts DSI, designed to ensure that the quality of applications running would be better, while the costs of managing this would be lower, Gates said, demonstrating a dynamic data center built by Hewlett-Packard Co.
The road map going forward will see the ADS piece ship in the third quarter of this year, while the Windows Virtual Server product based on the technologies Microsoft acquired when it bought Connectix Corp. in February will be released in the fourth quarter.
In the timeframe of the next Windows client release (2004 to 2005), currently code-named Longhorn, Microsoft will be developing custom SDM applications that are validated at design time, with that validation compatible with the data center environment, Berg said.
Those custom SDM applications can then be deployed across a dynamic data center, he said. While Microsoft officials have hinted that there may be some sort of Longhorn Server release, they have declined to be specific in that regard.
In the 2006 to 2007 timeframe, roughly that of the Windows release after Longhorn, code-named Blackcomb, are a number of supported scenarios. These include custom and third–party applications with built-in automation, fully automated software and resource provisioning, and business policy that directly drives changes in applications and resources, he said.
“We want to make sure that, incrementally as we go along, were delivering value. Were talking about timeframes now and not specific SKUs,” Berg said.
Microsoft is also committed to interoperability regarding the dynamic data center and has been talking with its partners about how to open up the right set of APIs to enable technologies like ADS to deploy non-Windows servers.
“So what youll see in our approach is opening up the set of interfaces and partnering for people to do development around that environment. We want to enable a dynamic data center that is heterogeneous but centrally controlled and automated by our software,” Berg said.
HP and Microsoft are already looking at how HP can use ADS as a server provisioning tool for its utility data center solution. “At the end of the day they dont want to be in the hardware resource management business. If Microsoft can come in and provide them with some great plumbing they can leverage, theyre all for it,” he said.
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