Microsoft plans to build features into future versions of Windows Server, as well as a new System Center product, that will help companies deploy and manage private clouds, Microsoft server and tools division president Bob Muglia said in an interview Wednesday.
"We will move more and more into managing pools of resources," Muglia said. Traditional data centers, and even most virtualized data centers, require administrators to manage servers as discrete entities and to move applications manually. Private clouds will take a much more flexible, scalable, automated approach and draw computing power from pools of resources, rather than discrete servers, and will adopt many of the best practices of public cloud vendors.
With Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft already is bringing technologies originally designed to be part of the company's Windows Azure public cloud computing platform into Windows Server. For example, Windows Server 2008 R2 includes a feature designed to make it easier to boot multiple virtual instances of an operating system, a feature first built for Windows Azure. More Azure features and technologies designed specifically for private cloud deployments will find themselves in Windows Server over time, Muglia said.
Further out, Microsoft will release a version of its System Center management software designed specifically with private clouds in mind, according to Muglia. "There will be a version of System Center that comes out in a couple of years that will essentially be a private cloud version of System Center," he said, adding that the new System Center software will use some of the lessons Microsoft has learned in building System Center Virtual Machine Manager and will apply them to broader data center management.
Muglia said the biggest private cloud computing shift, in terms of its effect on IT operations, will be the shift from having people define where and how a server workload will run, to having computers do so. In the current version of Virtual Machine Manager, for example, a placement wizard can recommend where to place virtual servers, but in future versions, that wizard will go away and the process will be automated. In that scenario, Muglia said, data center administrators will simply add a virtual or physical server to a pool of resources, and management software will determine how best to use those new resources.
System Center also will be able to manage heterogeneous private clouds running Windows and Linux servers. Today, System Center Operations Manager can manage Linux environments with an add-on called Cross Platform Extensions.
Though Microsoft is working to build private cloud-enabling features into Windows Server and System Center, Muglia said new products alone won't make private clouds a reality, as some applications simply weren't designed to be wildly scalable and parallel. "You cannot just grow or shrink an application that wasn't designed to do that," he said. Microsoft's recently been working hard developing new parallel programming paradigms and is putting services into Windows Server, its Oslo modeling platform, and the .Net Framework that will make it easier to write applications that can run across many servers.
Muglia also noted that server applications require many different hardware architectures and that too must come into consideration when creating private clouds. In cases where required server architectures diverge widely from the mainstream, management software like System Center will be able to identify an application that can run only on a certain subset of servers in the private cloud and won't be able to take full advantage of the scalability some other applications get from being part of a pool of otherwise undifferentiated hardware resources.
InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis of the challenges around virtualization management. Download the report here (registration required).