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10/1/2008
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Startup Puts Microsoft Windows In Amazon's Clouds

Until 3Tera came along, EC2 customers could only choose among Unix-based operating systems, but couldn't run Windows or SQL Server applications.

Microsoft and Amazon both have plans to offer utility computing based on Windows Server, but a start-up has managed to head them up at the pass.

3Tera has gotten a jump on Microsoft, which has remained mum on its utility computing plans thus far, and on Amazon, which itself used Wednesday to announce future support for Windows Server and SQL Server instances on its Elastic Compute Cloud utility computing service.

On Wednesday, 3Tera announced that it was releasing a test version of its AppLogic 2.4 distributed operating system, which is used by some cloud service providers. Though previous versions only supported virtual appliances running Linux and Solaris, the new version will support Windows as well. Other start-ups, including GoGrid and FlexiScale, already offer utility computing services based on Windows.

"Windows support is an important requirement for an open cloud computing environment robust enough to take on any Web or enterprise application," Bert Armijo, senior vice president of sales and marketing for 3Tera, said in a statement.

While Microsoft continues to hold its own cards close to the vest as to its utility computing plans (at least until its semi-annual Professional Developers Conference later this month), Amazon is also among those hoping to head Microsoft off at the pass. During a speech in the U.K. Wednesday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly referred to something he called "Windows Cloud" that will be announced about four weeks from now. Later this fall, the company announced, it will begin offering customers of its Elastic Compute Cloud utility computing service the ability to run Microsoft Windows Server or Microsoft SQL Server instances as a service. Until now, EC2 customers could choose among Unix-based operating systems, but couldn't run Windows or SQL Server applications in Amazon's cloud.

According to Amazon, Windows support in EC2 has been among the most requested features, especially for tasks like media transcoding and powering ASP.NET Web sites that use Microsoft's Web server technology and SQL Server.

"The backend servers that power the world of Internet Services have become increasingly diverse," Amazon CTO Werner Vogels wrote in a blog post announcing the news. "With today's announcement that Microsoft Windows Server is available on Amazon EC2 we can now run the majority of popular software systems in the cloud."

Microsoft has thus far been mum on specifics about its own utility computing plans, though the agenda for the Professional Developers Conference and recent statements by executives have hinted at such plans, which will doubtless include some cloud-based variation of Windows Server. The company's SQL Server Data Services is already at work on carrying SQL Server constructs over to cloud computing, and various reports have referenced a forthcoming utility computing platform known as Red Dog.

Amazon, 3Tera and Microsoft alike will bring Windows into a new age with utility computing services based on the operating system. Windows has always been tied to servers or PCs and may now begin to be associated with the Internet as well. And while Windows has always cost one up front price, it will now be available on a monthly basis.

To help understand how other companies large and small are approaching cloud computing, InformationWeek has published an independent report on the subject. Download the report here (registration required).

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