Microsoft’s vision of the Cloud OS and what it means to you (and me)

imageRecently I had the opportunity to be part of a Microsoft Press Briefing where they announced System Center 2012 SP1 was released and how it played a part of their vision of the Cloud OS.  Since that briefing I’ve had a number of conversations and I thought where better than here to discuss that.

What is the Cloud OS

The Cloud OS is Microsoft’s vision of a consistent platform across customer datacenters, service provider datacenters and the Microsoft public cloud.  It’s the ability to manage your compute workloads wherever they live effortlessly and in the same manner. 

It’s the combination of Windows Server, System Center, On Premise hosting, Service Provider hosting and Windows Azure hosting to create a cloud ecosystem where compute is just compute and it’s managed as compute regardless of where it lives.  So no matter where your workload lives you manage it the same way using the same processes and the same tools. 

So where’s the magic?

For me the magic is in something called Service Provider Foundation (SPF), it’s part of System Center 2012 – Orchestrator and it exposes an extensible web based API that allows service providers and hosters to design and implement multi-tenant self-service portals to offer Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings.  I know what you’re thinking “Great Microsoft made a control panel”.  No it’s not a control panel.  It’s simply an API that exposes the System Center components (today it’s Virtual Machine Manager).  Leveraging SPF we’re able to allow our customers and partners to manage their cloud computing resources hosted with us from within System Center, the same way they manage their on premise workloads today.  At the same time, these customers can also manage workloads hosted in Azure.  So the customer is able to do it all from that single pane of glass. 

So what does this mean for me (that’s you)?

So now you’re thinking “Great, Microsoft came out with a way to sell me more of their software. Fantastic! now I need to install System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) to manage my compute” but again that’s not true.  If you do have SCVMM in your infrastructure then you can use, if you don’t have it in your infrastructure then you can either deploy it or you can use System Center 2012 – App Controller.  What’s App Controller? it’s a silverlight based web application that exposes much of the same capabilities you find in SCVMM without having to deploy SCVMM.

We could actually deploy App Controller and give you the ability to manage your cloud from within app controller with nothing to install on your end. Of course, you can also manage any workloads you have deployed in Azure. 

You see one of the biggest complaints with hosting/service provider control panels has always been you can only do what they expose to you. We’ve had the same feedback ourselves. With commercial control panels, when new technologies come out you have to wait for the control panel vendor to support it.  For example, a new ASP.NET version comes out and you have to wait 6 months for the vendor to deploy a patch and then another 3 months for the service provider to test and vet the patch before they are comfortable deploying it to you.  With SPF you’re able to do everything in SCVMM & App Controller today, no waiting, no new user interface to learn, nothing.

So SPF and Cloud OS, Was that it?

No that wasn’t all that was released.  Something else released was called “Windows Azure Services for Windows Server”.  I know what you’re thinking now too “Say huh?”.  So let me explain what it is and then the name will probably make sense.  Microsoft has made some huge investments in Windows Azure and really learned a lot about scalability and performance in large scale, multitenant deployments.  Windows Server is an example of some of that learning but now so is ‘Windows Azure Services for Windows Server”.  A few months ago Microsoft announced the availability of Azure Websites, a new service that allows you to host classic web applications on top of Azure without the need to rewrite them.  Microsoft bundled all of the technology that they use to deliver that solution and made it available for anyone to deploy.  That’s right Microsoft said “Mr. Hosting Provider, we found this technology to be really good, really scalable and really great for website hosting so here go make yourself more efficient and offer a better mouse trap .. oh and it’s free because you already deploy windows”.

But let’s not forget the most important piece

Applied Innovations has been a Windows based hosting provider for over 14 years now. In all that time Hosting service providers really didn’t quite fit into the MIcrosoft partner program.  We weren’t quite the red headed stepchild but we weren’t far off. Let’s face it Microsoft was always a enterprise focused business.  With the move to the cloud Microsoft is now a cloud focused business and with that hosting providers (web hosting providers are quickly rebranding as cloud hosting providers, us included) are an integral part of that equation and at the end of the day what Microsoft is saying is Host it on premise, host it with us or host it with someone like Applied Innovations, we don’t care we just want you to use our technology and we’re making it better, faster, more economical and more powerful than anyone else so you will.

This is great news for businesses leveraging the cloud today or looking to leverage the cloud because having a company focused on delivering great technology products, like Microsoft, bundled with a customer-centric service provider like Applied Innovations that’s focused on your business success is a recipe for success.


PS here’s a few links if you want to learn more:

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