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Virtualization: Article

Here Comes Microsoft’s Cloud OS & Trouble for VMware

Server 2012 has its own gussied-up virtualization, networking, storage, automation and end-user access

Microsoft said it would push Windows Server 2012 out the door in early September and it did on Tuesday, after a year of public test builds. It positioned it as the "cornerstone" of its cloud strategy, its "Cloud OS" for private and hosted clouds and a building block for Windows Azure.

It said "the Cloud OS does what operating systems have always done: manage hardware and provide a platform for applications. But it also expands to include services and technologies that have not previously been considered part of an operating system."

In the case of Windows Server, the 2012 model works independently and connects to 200 or so online services available through Azure, stuff like bursting or analytics.

Microsoft says the widgetry is "built from the cloud up."

Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, blogged that the company focused on four key things in building the Cloud OS:

"First is the transformation of the data center. We want to bring together all of the resources provided by a traditional data center - storage, networking and computing - into one platform that scales elastically with an organization's needs.

"Second is offering the APIs and runtimes to enable developers to create modern applications - for mobile, social and Big Data. A third important aspect is ensuring personalized services and experiences, so that any user on any device can access all of their data and applications.

"Lastly, data of any size or type, stored anywhere and processed in any style must be a first-class citizen of the Cloud OS."

Since Azure and Windows Server share basic technology, Microsoft gets to try out a new buzzword out of the RAS school - namely consistency - as in "only Microsoft is able to offer the consistent platform that the cloud demands" and customers can "use common virtualization, application development, systems management, data and identity frameworks across all of their clouds."

Nadella explained: "As companies find more and more ways to take advantage of cloud benefits, this consistency will be required in how the cloud behaves, whether on-premise or through service providers. To be clear, that consistency is not a statement about packaging or offers, but rather about the underlying technology designs in which virtuous cycles of development drive both Windows Server and Windows Azure and the key technologies that span both. We've built the Cloud OS components in concert - not acquired them as piece parts - which provides a further level of consistency and cohesion across deployment scenarios."

Server 2012 has its own gussied-up virtualization, networking, storage, automation and end-user access. CPU, storage and networking systems are virtualized and cloud-enabled. It's also supposed to support the exponential growth of data and devices.

It can handle clustered file servers of 64 nodes, up from 16, with larger storage to accommodate mushrooming corporate data and storage racks that offer continuous availability not just high availability.

The server's updates include a new version of Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor - apparently a hot number judging from the early reviews - that adds network virtualization capabilities so multiple network configurations can co-exist on the same physical LAN, an essential foundation of multi-tenant data centers.

Microsoft says it will support any application on any cloud and that other people's VMs will break when they change their IP address. With Windows Server 2012 and its network virtualization, the IP address moves around with the VM.

A new ZFS-like Resilient File System (ReFS) is supposed to introduce greater reliability features such as an allocation-on-write policy for metadata to reduce the threat of data being corrupted.

Windows Server 2012 is supposed to leapfrog Microsoft over VMware. It can reportedly handle bigger workloads per server than VMware, whose customers are being wooed to swap out its rival widgetry.

Microsoft can dangle cheaper prices in front of them. For instance, the deduplication features in Server 2012 can supposedly save users 40% or 50% on storage. VMware admitted last week at VMworld that it can't compete with Microsoft on price.

There are four editions of Windows Server 2012 starting at $425 and running up to $4,800, both for up to two processors.

The high-end Datacenter edition supports unlimited virtualization rights for cloud environments while the $880 Standard edition is for small virtualized environments and only supports two Windows Server VMs per license.

The Essentials edition, which replaces the old Small Business Server (SBS) and has a 25-user limit, will cost $425 a server. VARs and solution providers might use it to chase SMB opportunities. It's still in the release candidate stage.

Windows Server 2012 Foundation is a general-purpose server platform with no virtualization and only comes pre-installed on OEM server hardware.

The operating system is available for download and evaluation.

To make everything really work a user needs Microsoft's System Center 2012 management platform. It can do the bare-metal provisioning, couple servers into resource pools to build a private cloud and automate the resources that deliver services from the cloud.

Apple surprised people when it testified at its patent infringement suit against Samsung last month that it didn't divine its widgets out of thin air. Instead it talked to people. According to ZDnet that's how Microsoft developed its server out of a combined server and cloud unit, which explains its cloud proclivities and focus on automation.

There's also widgetry shared with the Windows 8 client operating system coming out the end of October: the kernel, interface, developer tools, frameworks and identity and commerce infrastructure.

Forrester Research figures spending on private clouds will top $20 billion next year. IDC estimates Microsoft had $5 billion in Windows Server sales in 2011. VMware had 58% of the hypervisor market last year to Microsoft's 26%. The race is on.

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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