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Cloud Expo: Article

Windows Server Painted Azure

A newfangled Service Management Portal built into Windows 8’s new Metro user interface can deliver Azure-like services

Microsoft has colored Windows Server 2012 Azure and white-boxed it for service providers and hosting outfits disenfranchised by Amazon, creating in the process a cloud operating system that it can rattle under the nose of the vCloud-pushing VMware.

What it's done exactly is add Azure-y features to Windows Server so service providers can build Azure-like infrastructure clouds out of their Windows Server data centers and offer turnkey cloud services. They don't have to use Microsoft's infrastructure. They can have their own branded IaaS clouds.

A newfangled Service Management Portal built into Windows 8's new Metro user interface can deliver Azure-like services like automated web site hosting, high-scale web sites and Windows or Linux virtual machine hosting. The widgetry's extensible APIs let developers connect their hosted applications to other people's specialized services, their own on-premise resources and Windows Azure if they want.

Voilà, the beginnings of a hybrid cloud strategy.

Microsoft has the widgetry in a beta-y community technology preview (CTP) release that giant web hoster Go Daddy is already piloting.

Taking it out for a spin requires at least four VMs running Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2008 R2 as well as a System Centre 2012 Service Pack 1 virtual hard drive image and .NET 3.5 and 4 frameworks on all virtual machines. No word on pricing of course.

GigaOm is quite taken with the move.

It says: "Loading

In the grand scheme of things, Service Management Portal could go down as Microsoft's most-significant blow in its battle against virtualization market leader VMware to become the operating system for the cloud. VMware has a head start with its vCloud Datacenter Services program and vCloud Director management software, but Microsoft now essentially has an answer to both, although it still has plenty of maturing to do (especially if it wants to compete for enterprise workloads)."

Microsoft also kicked off a Switch to Hyper-V program at its Worldwide Partner Conference Tuesday offering partners tools and training to move customers to Windows Server and Hyper-V and dislodge VMware. The toolbox includes widgetry to convert a VMware image to Hyper-V's format.

Wired called Service Management Portal a "brilliant move by Microsoft that hits at several different markets to increase their own footprint especially in the virtualization battlefield.... The Microsoft ‘cloud' influence is quickly moving from obscurity to being everywhere."

ZDNet imagines Microsoft attracting telecommunications companies left out in the cold by Amazon.

"If Microsoft can get enough service providers using its technology," it said, "it will get the twin benefits of a massive R&D bonus from the ensuing feedback and the chance to supply ammunition to those keen to use their data centers, fiber networks and good company relations to take on Amazon. After all, big telecommunications companies like Cable & Wireless Worldwide, AT&T and Verizon all have major cloud offerings, vast data centers and great globe-spanning connectivity. It must be galling to see an online bookseller from Seattle overtake you in a market that, if one thinks about this objectively, you should own."

Windows Server 2012 is due out in September.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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