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Does Microsoft have the urge to merge Azure and System Center platforms?

Laying out its Microsoft Product Roadmap for 2012 this week, an analyst at market researcher Directions on Microsoft said it believes the company will bring the System Center management suite and Windows Azure closer together over the next few years to where the two will likely merge into a single platform.

Evidence of this tighter relationship can be seen in the upcoming System Center 2012 suite, due in early spring, which has new features supporting a number of capabilities in Azure. System Center and Azure won’t be the only two getting cozier. Microsoft will also enrich Windows Server to work more hand-in- glove with Azure as well, said Rob Helm, managing vice president of Directions on Microsoft.

System Center will continue its reach toward Windows Azure with Virtual Machine Manager (contained in System Center 2012) already gaining the ability to manage some Azure resources. I think Windows Server will also gain the ability to run Azure’s unique services for things like storage and authentication. This way if something deployed (on Azure) is not working out or there are security concerns, users can bring them over to Windows Server,” Helm said.

Continuing on what he sees for Azure in 2012, Helm said the cloud platform will receive two important updates this year – updates he originally expected in 2011 – that will make it more compatible with Windows Server as well as deploy applications with significantly less upfront costs. The first will be the VM roles feature which will allow the platform to run Hyper-V virtual machines.

The second will be the delivery of Application Virtualization, better known as Server App-V, which will allow Azure to run Windows Server components it can’t today, making it easier to summon up server applications, Helm said. He added that in the second half of this year Microsoft itself would be putting server-based apps up on Azure, namely some of its Dynamics applications such as Dynamics NAV.

As Azure gains the ability to host virtual machines, Helm predicts it will generally function as an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering, not just as a Platform as a Service (PaaS). This evolution will bring it more directly into competition with Amazon Web Services.

“I think you will gradually see Amazon Web Services and Azure converge in terms of their capabilities,” Helm said.

Let us know what you think about this story; email Ed Scannell at

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