Windows optimize

Does Azure mean the death of the datacenter or the rebirth of Windows?

Does Microsoft's focus on Azure really mean the death of the datacenter -- and the Windows servers that empower it -- or could it actually signal the rebirth of Windows?

Privatizing the Azure cloud

But does it really matter that Windows Server is the OS on which the applications will run? Doesn't the rise of Azure mean that those Windows Servers are all moving off premises, to be hosted in some gargantuan datacenter that's run by Microsoft? Doesn't that mean your company datacenter will be shut down, and you'll be out of a job?

Not necessarily. Cloud services hosted off premises by a cloud provider (the public cloud) is only one of the four cloud deployment models defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology's DRAFT Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations, released earlier this month. That document recognizes three additional cloud scenarios: the private cloud, the community cloud, and the hybrid cloud. A private cloud can be implemented on premises or the server side can be outsourced.

Last summer, Microsoft unveiled its Windows Azure Platform appliance, which can be used by organizations to run Azure as a private cloud. And that's where things could get exciting. The private cloud is, in the opinion of many, the datacenter of the future. In many ways, it offers the best of both worlds, taking advantage of the technologies of the cloud -- virtualization and automation for better scalability, cost savings, and flexibility -- while allowing organizations to maintain control for maximum security and reliability.

For a while, it seemed the industry viewed the private cloud simply as a transition technology, a "gateway drug" to get companies hooked on the convenience of the cloud and ease them into the public cloud. But now there seems to be a growing recognition that factors such as ISP trends doing away with unlimited data services (which have gained a strong foothold in the consumer space and might very well progress to the business side), along with security issues and concerns over recent cloud service outages, are making the public cloud look less attractive.

For many organizations, the trust just isn't there yet -- and they might never be confident to put all their eggs into the public cloud basket. However, those organizations do want the efficiency benefits that cloud computing has to offer.

Microsoft is currently positioning its Hyper-V Cloud as an IaaS private cloud solution and the Windows Azure Platform appliance as the solution for a PaaS private cloud.

My take

If Microsoft can deliver cost-effective cloud solutions that give companies freedom of choice -- with cloud services hosted in their own datacenters, partner datacenters, or Microsoft's own datacenters -- this could make the company a major player in the coming migration from today's traditional datacenters to tomorrow's application-centric models. Indeed, far from killing Windows Server, Azure could be the driving force behind its rebirth, as a leaner and meaner OS that can span the public and private cloud sectors, running on top of the Windows Azure platform.

Before that happens, though, Microsoft needs to find a way to help IT pros, C level personnel, and other nondevelopers understand what Azure is and what it does. Demystifying the cloud components would go a long way toward addressing the fear surrounding cloud migration.

In addition, a sharper focus on their private cloud offerings would let people know that there are more options than they might have imagined and that the cloud is not just one big, public, one-size-fits-all solution they're being pushed into. The problem isn't with the technology; it's with the messaging.

Your take

What do you think? Does Azure have the potential to breathe new life into the Windows Server brand by giving it a new, more scalable, and more flexible foundation? Should Microsoft give more attention to their private cloud solutions, especially at this early stage in the cloud migration game? Is a lack of understanding about the cloud operating system and its relationship to the Windows Server we all know and love holding back the success of Microsoft's cloud efforts? Join in the discussion and let us know what you think.

About

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

26 comments
don
don

I believe Azure is a manger of hyper-visors. They have thousands of Windows virtual machines running and Azure manages booting them up, shutting them down, and distributing workloads across them. What people fail to mention is that you cannot take off the shelf Windows apps and run them on Azure. Everything has to be designed for a stateless operation. Your app may be running on a hundred different virtual machines and any of them can go away at any time. The new ones that take their place don't have the transactions that were in memory. Anything that was in memory was lost. This architecture would be great to run services like eBay, Amazon, or Facebook. Unfortunately, most businesses don't have a need for that type of architecture. Its perfect for custom coded apps that need lots of computing power and can be written stateless. You don't have to fear Azure taking over the world until they can run all the apps that businesses need, not just that niche.

jeff
jeff

We have to buy it to see what's in it.

trailbarge1
trailbarge1

"Azure is one of the most misunderstood products the company has produced (and that???s saying a lot)." Two words: "Microsoft Bob"

nwallette
nwallette

In a couple months or so, Microsoft will take all the code they've written, compile it, and see what it does. Then, they'll be able to explain it a lot better!

ITGrouch
ITGrouch

I keep laughing when people throw the "Cloud" buzzword around. The one question that shoots down moving the enterprise to remote distributed access is what happens when the WAN goes down?

FTAdmin
FTAdmin

Azure is not so much an operating system as a... er... "Meta System", i suppose it could be called. It sounds more of a higher level management/control system which ties together multiple Operating Systems. In other words, it may not necessarily directly control hardware (drivers and such) as much as it coordinates the distributed efforts of the Operating Systems' control over the hardware. Basically it's another layer of systems management.

Realvdude
Realvdude

1) I think part of the mystery/confusion with Azure is that like most things MS it is maturing/changing. I think they introduced what they thought the market wanted, and are now adapting to what they are being asked for. This even goes for the pricing models. 2) What is the next step for Windows Server? I think one of the general benefits of virtualization is the ability to allocate resources as needed and ubiquitously. Azure seems the next step in virtualization, and with a private cloud solution, I can see a completely transparent connect to using public cloud resources on a as needed basis, or even deploying a project publicly after private development. As a software, support and services vendor, we are looking at porting a intranet application to Azure to streamline deployment and support, as well as simplifying customer collaboration services.

ketan
ketan

Will we get the Luncheons as we did in '99 telling us to sell MS Exchange to our clients so that we can maintain it? So the new mantra will be 'Sell your clients Azure so that you can maintain it!'

Craig_B
Craig_B

When I read through Microsoft's documentation on Azure it took me awhile to understand it. Ultimately it seemed to be more of a mainframe. You create an application, store it and run it in the cloud. The cloud is attractive for vendors because they can rent out things (long term revenue stream) as opposed to sell you something (one time revenue). It???s not as attractive to companies as you have taken a localized (owned, high control and understood) system and made it a cloud (rented, low control and not highly understood) system. As business as not been quick to jump to the cloud, Microsoft and other vendors have been pushing VM???s to the cloud. I think this is because VM???s are understood, they can run on any host so the comfort level is higher however you still run into some of the same issues. I believe in time (several years) the cloud model will work out the major pain points and more companies will move to the cloud. Only time will tell.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Don't skip reading page two - you can have your own "private" cloud. In fact, that seems to be where many will end up.

remjr
remjr

As I am IT for a large medical practice, I do not see cloud anything being a viable option with the kind of sensitive data I handle on a moment to moment basis. I simply do not feel it is a secure enough solution. We will be keeping our WIN Server 2008 machines.

belli_bettens
belli_bettens

And here I was, thinking I was the only one not really getting where Azure is all about. Thanks for the revelation! ;-)

jck
jck

as the end of Microsoft's dominance if MS tries coercion through price elevation to get people to move to Azure. I see a lot more places moving to non-MS solutions if that happens. And, I'll be the first to suggest it where I work.

pizza7
pizza7

I would rather own my assets and manage them. I would rather have my own data on premise. Microsoft can go "all in" but they better not have mis-calculated customer interest. It all sounds great until you have to put it to practice. Sure...may be costs will go down for companies in the begining but then the un-anticpated costs will come into play. How many times have we seen Amazon or other clouds go down for extended periods of time ?

inouyde
inouyde

Mmm... Microsoft/ChromeBook partnership?

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

From a cloud near you. Now instead of shoveling it, the new Microcrap will fall from the sky! Instead of hogging your server resources, the new version will hog your bandwidth! Don't pay for assets that you can own and reliably measure. Instead pay in to a system with multiple points of failure, none of which you control! Now Microsoft can blame your ISP and your ISP can blame Microsoft! No one is at fault! Win-Win-Win! The good news? It certainly can't be your fault anymore! Stop blaming your employees and let your employees do the blaming! Now look at these skewed numbers and fuzzy math. See how much you can save? Throw away all of your computers, fire all of your employees and then complain about the unemployment rates in your locality. Give all of your money to Microsoft and move out of the country because the looting will start soon. I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords. (Yes I know I am being rediculous but I feel better now)

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Is Microsoft's Azure platform a mystery to you or do you have a good handle on what Azure is and what is designed to do? I think TechRepublic members would like to hear about experiences regarding deployment and implementation of Azure. Have you got a story to tell?

jck
jck

It's not improbable, that somewhere between your building and "the cloud", that some $12 per hour backhoe operator who didn't get much sleep the night before cause he was watching the Jets vs Ravens monday night football game...is gonna put the scoop-end of the backhoe right through a fibre trunk down the road. Oops. Or better yet: You move to the cloud, and their servers fail, their redundancy fails, and your DB data for the past 48 hours is gone because their backups won't restore. Gonna walk into the cloud operations center and fire the backup guys yourself? Oops.

pgit
pgit

I'd forgotten about that episode. (Futurama) That show took a while for all the touchstones to emerge, I'd be thinking about something a week or two later and suddenly a scene would pop into my head and I 'got it.' Futurama was a lot headier than it appeared at first blush. Haven't seen any of the new ones. Hope they haven't lost their edge.

kandrolewicz2
kandrolewicz2

I can't believe that businesses are actually accepting this Cloud Stuff. Look at what happened at Amazon with people's music that was "out in the cloud" from Amazon. Because of a bug in the program they were cut off from all the stuff they purchased. Plus, now the espionage on your data begins. No longer can you be guaranteed to keep it safe, although they "tell" you it's safe. Of course, if you believe it is safe, let me sell you this Golden Gate Bridge I have for sale in New Mexico!

Rick S._z
Rick S._z

Microsoft can't even keep Hotmail running. Far less than a "cloud infrastructure" for virtualized Windows Servers, that's merely a SMTP/POP/IMAP Application Service. And yet, the claim is made that these people will be providing "enterprise-level" RASUI for a nearly full set of Windows Server 2008 API libraries. In my experience, the requirements of "Enterprise" computing start with availability at 99.999%, with a fully implemented recovery plan (with roughly 5 minutes of down timer per year) for EVERY possible failure. Only then do you start talking about things like "saving money", "managing growth", and "reducing asset inventories". And I haven't even BEGUN to talk about physical security, either. MS has a lot to prove, and a lot of previous failures to overcome, before any world-class ENTERPRISE is going to buy into anything remotely like this.

tigua
tigua

The cloud as I understand it is an attempt to go back to the mainframe-terminal concept on a much larger scale to create a never ending income stream for microsoft. And we all know how greate the mainframe-terminal concept is.

dbalfour
dbalfour

What if you run a multinational company with many offices - how are they all connected these days? MPLS maybe? Everyone depends on solid networking and should build in redundancy. WAN failures happen and you should have backup, cloud or no cloud.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

They will "add the biological and technological distinctiveness of other species to [their] own"

dbalfour
dbalfour

I am a consultant who sees many organizations every year. 5 minutes downtime may well be a goal but most organizations are a long way from that - even for core systems - let alone every system. You are right that MSFT has a lot to prove but don't make the mistake of thinking everything in the private garden is rosy because it most definitely isn't....