"We run 200 very diverse workloads," said Microsoft server & tools president Satya Nadella, during a keynote Monday to open the TechEd 2012 conference in Orlando, Fla.
Nadella noted that Microsoft's cloud services include numerous offerings, each with millions of users, from Office 365 and Dynamics CRM, to Xbox Live and the Bing search engine. Last week, Bing went live on Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate, said Nadella. "We are battle-testing every piece of software." Nadella noted that, just for its own services, Microsoft is already operating 16 major data centers, where, for Bing alone, it's managing more than 300 petabytes of data.
Nadella said data centers that can provide services at such scale need four characteristics--they need to be scalable and elastic, be always up and always on, provide shared resources, and offer an automated, self-service environment. "That's what inspired us to build Windows Server 2012," he said.
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Nadella said Windows Server 2012 supports the first requirement through its ability to handle as many as 64 virtual processors and 1 terabyte of data per virtual machine (VM); the second through features like the ability to update clusters without having to bring down entire cluster nodes; the third through simplified consolidation and virtualization through Hyper-V; and the fourth, automation, through new add-ons like an expanded PowerShell interface through which "you can automate pretty much anything that's there."
Windows Server 2012 is expected to be released later this year, around the same time that Windows 8 drops. It's the key lynchpin in Microsoft's vision for a cloud computing environment that extends from Windows phones and tablets, through private clouds in enterprise data centers, and up into the public cloud on Windows Azure.
"We want to virtualize workloads that were not considered virtualizeable," said Windows Server program manager Jeff Woolsey, who demoed some of the advanced features in Windows Server 2012. Woolsey showed how new tools in System Center simplify the process of extending data center resources into a cloud environment. The utility provides a URL for the cloud resource, offers a security certificate, and manages passwords. "In a few easy steps, System Center is managing the connection," said Woolsey.
Analysts said Windows Server 2012's advanced virtualization capabilities show that Microsoft is serious about taking on VMware directly as a virtualization specialist. "The overall message of the keynote was clear, Microsoft is amping up its virtualization technology and thinks it can go head to head with VMware now," said IDC's Al Hilwa.
Nadella said Windows Server 2012 has gone through a beta process in which it was evaluated by more than 300,000 customers, including companies like ING Direct and Aflac. Aflac CIO Mike Boyle, who took the stage briefly at Monday's keynote, said the insurance provider is looking at how it can pull customer information from the cloud into its lead-generation systems, via Windows Server 2012, while taking advantage of the redundancy capabilities in those platforms. "We don't want the application to go down if there's a single failure in the data center," said Boyle.
Microsoft has not announced an official release data for Windows Server 2012, but it's expected to arrive later this year.
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