Microsoft kicked off its annual TechEd conference Monday much the way it did last year's, heavily touting cloud computing as a more efficient way for businesses to run IT operations. This year, however, company executives provided more details about how organizations can actually use cloud computing day-to-day.
Using the cloud "is about having more people able to focus on higher level parts of the stack, managing the app [service level agreements], rolling out new applications, and not having to worry about the underlying infrastructure," said Microsoft corporate Vice President Robert Wahbe, during the opening keynote of the conference in Atlanta.
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The next release of Microsoft System Center will be key to a unified cloud strategy, which will allow line-of-business owners and administrators to control both their public and private cloud workloads from a single view, he said.
Microsoft System Center 2012, due to be released by the end of the year, will feature a single console that will allow virtualized workloads to be managed, whether they reside in-house or on the public cloud.
Microsoft technical evangelist Joey Snow demonstrated how the console would work. A user could put together the basic components, such as a database server and the application, from within System Center. The software checks to see what resources are available and if the person has the proper credentials to create such a workload. Once finished, the application could then be deployed to a local private cloud, or on a Microsoft Azure-based public cloud offering.
The console would also provide status updates of applications running in the cloud, and allow users to add in more copies of an application should the workload increase.
For this set up to work, all the software components should be run from within a Microsoft Hyper-V-based virtual machine, which could be moved around easily between internal and external clouds, Wahbe explained. Last year was the first in which the industry created more virtual servers than purchased actual physical servers, he said.
"This move to virtualization is setting us all up for a much bigger inflection point, the inflection point to the cloud," Wahbe said. Virtualization will allow organizations to take "all those virtualized resources, [pull] them together to dynamically provision and scale your application, and only pay for what you are using."
Wahbe promised that many of the sessions at this week's conference would further explain how Microsoft software could be configured for cloud interaction and that Microsoft will provide reference architectures for easing the setup of a cloud-based infrastructure.
Wahbe predicted that public cloud use will be most prevalent for a number of use cases. Organizations may use the cloud for extending existing applications, especially those used by their customers and partners. Business intelligence will be an early use, because the digestion and analysis of data can be intensive and vary over time. One-time uses such as for marketing and presenting events would be another natural candidate for cloud computing, because hardware and software won't have to be allocated for them.