For the kickoff of Microsoft's annual North American TechEd conference, the company is urging administrators and IT professionals to think of it as the provider of the "Cloud OS."
Microsoft announced a sweeping range of updates to its line of enterprise software, all aimed at bridging on-premises systems with cloud services offered by Microsoft and its service providers. It also announced updates to its Azure cloud service.
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"If you step back and [see] what is fundamentally happening in the industry, the definition of the operating systems is changing and expanding. Its role is to provide an abstraction layer between the application and the hardware, but it has to do that at the scale of the data center or the cloud, not at the level of the individual server," said Brad Anderson, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows Server and System Center, in a press conference that followed the opening keynote.
Among the new releases announced were the introductions of Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, Team Foundation Server 2013, a new version of Windows Intune and SQL Server 2014. All but SQL Server 2014, which will be released early next year, will be available as preview editions by the end of the month and generally available by the end of the year.
Many of the features make these products work with Microsoft's Azure cloud service, or a company's in-house cloud service, more handily. For instance, Windows Server 2012 R2 can accelerate the speed of VM (virtual machine) live migration. Through the use of de-duplication technologies, the migration process can only move those bits that are unique to each VM, saving the time of copying the parts of a VM that are identical across all instances. It also uses the RDMA (remote direct memory access) protocol to further cut migration time.
Between the two technologies, VM live migration from one server to another can take only half as long as the previous methods used in Windows Server, noted Jeff Woolsey, Microsoft principal program manager, who was one of the presenters in addition to Anderson at the keynote.
Windows Server 2012 R2 also offers automated storage tiering, which will help organizations manage large amounts of data more easily without the help of SANs (storage area networks). With this feature, the server can recognize which data is being accessed the most and move it to the fastest hard drives, such as solid state drives, to improve performance, Woolsey noted.
New cloud services
To help organizations come to terms with the idea of the Cloud OS, Microsoft plans to release the Windows Azure Pack for Windows Server. The Azure Pack includes a number of tools that will allow organizations to offer their own in-house services as cloud services, as well as bridge management of in-house resources with Azure-based resources, Anderson said. It includes a portal that users can use to manage the IT for their own projects. It also provides tools for high-density hosting of applications on a single server as well as for managing configurations of user systems.