The move amounts to white labeling Azure: it will give third-party hosting services the opportunity to create mini-Azure cloud services under their own brand.
Many attribute the move to Microsoft's wish to better compete with Amazon, but it more closely aligns with trying to match VMware's growing strength in establishing public clouds compatible with its own virtualization software. Third-party providers are adopting VMware's vCloud Director, which functions as a cloud operating system pooling virtual resources and provisioning virtual machines.
[ Want to learn more about how Microsoft System Center and its Virtual Machine Manager component enable on-premises cloud computing? See Microsoft System Center Private Cloud Power, Explained. ]
VMware's announced public cloud partners include Bluelock, Colt, Singtel, Softbank, and Terremark, but there are now an additional 100 vCloud based services, starting with AT&T Synaptic Cloud Service and including Xtium, YaZiba and ZettaGrid. Microsoft can only view with alarm this spread of hosting services compatible with its long-time virtualization rival.
Microsoft server and tools president Satya Nadella says that's a role that Windows 2012--and Windows Server 2008, Release 2--can fulfill. At its Worldwide Partner Conference Tuesday in Toronto, Nadella in a keynote said Microsoft was taking features recently added to its Azure cloud platform and putting them into Windows Server 2012, due out in September
"We're delivering the ultimate cloud operating system, the boundary-less data center. There's no translation of virtual machine formats and we give you a single pane of glass for management," whether the cloud servers on are on-premises or at a public infrastructure provider, he said.
Windows Server 2012 will be able to host and scale up high-density websites. A Windows Server-based hosting service will be able to operate "tens of thousands of sites in a single web farm," according to information posted on the Microsoft website. Customers can be automatically signed up, metered, and have host throttling measures applied if they start consuming more than their share of I/O and supporting services. When accompanied by an installation of Microsoft systems management software, System Center, Windows Server 2012 will be able to supply infrastructure as a service and generate both Windows and Linux virtual machines. The VMs will be run on multi-tenant host servers and customers of a public infrastructure provider will be able to use these VMs as an extension of their own data center, Nadella said.
A service management portal will allow customers of third parties providing Windows 2012 infrastructure to provision their virtual machines by using Microsoft's Metro user interface, now found on Azure. A standard API will let each third-party customize its infrastructure as a service offering, putting its own preferred billing, metering and branding on the site, according to information published on the Microsoft site.
Thus, the virtual environment inside the data center is being seen by both vendors and IT managers alike not as an end goal but as a step in the direction of cloud computing. The decisions made on what virtualization to use will have an impact on what public clouds are also available. And a decision to use a public cloud will reinforce a decision to use its type of virtualization in the data center.
If there's any doubt these moves are aimed at VMware and not Amazon, then consider another initiative announced Tuesday: the Hyper-V Migration program to create the right tools and guidance to move customers from VMware's ESX Server to Hyper-V. Micrsoft's gold partner FyrSoft moved the windows and door manufacturer, Pella; Avanade, a consulting firm partner, migrated Unilever. Examples abound, Microsoft officials said, but these were the only two cited.
Expertise, automation, and silo busting are all required, say early adopters of private clouds. Also in the new, all-digital Private Clouds: Vision Vs. Reality issue of InformationWeek: How to choose between OpenStack and CloudStack for your private cloud. (Free with registration.)