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Microsoft shops to get Azure cloud features in Windows Server 2012

Microsoft says new additions coming to make Windows Server 2012 into a "cloud OS" platform for hosting customers.

Whether you are interested in Microsoft’s cloud platform or not, you’ll get a dose of it in Windows Server 2012.

The next-generation “cloud OS” has close similarities with the Windows Azure public cloud and it includes virtualization features that Microsoft hopes will entice rival VMware’s customers.

Microsoft announced the community technology preview (CTP) of Windows Server 2012 during its Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto this week. The CTP includes a new website hosting facility for Windows Server 2012, support for running legacy applications in virtual machines (VM), and a self-service management portal meant to provide a Metro-like management interface. Its purpose is to give Microsoft partners and IT pros Azure-like capabilities.

"At its core, this CTP means Microsoft is living up to its commitment to enable its hosting partners to build public clouds," said Mark Eisenberg, director at enterprise application and cloud integration firm Fino Consulting LLC, based in New York City.

At its core, this CTP means Microsoft is living up to its commitment to enable its hosting partners to build public clouds.

"They can choose to compete on a commodity basis head-to-head with Windows Azure Web Sites ... [plus] there is no reason an enterprise with a large data center cannot also deploy this framework," Eisenberg added.

However, Microsoft’s attempt to label Windows Server 2012 as a cloud OS could simply be a ploy, according to one cloud expert.

"This feels like a marketing effort to deliver the message to service provider partners -- who are not able to offer a Windows Azure environment to Microsoft customers -- that they can still offer a capable cloud based on Windows Server, and it can behave like and be configured to provide many of the same features that Windows Azure can," said Al Gillen, program vice president for system software at Framingham, Mass.-based researcher IDC.

The question is whether Microsoft's pitch of what ultimately is a hybrid cloud model will find success with customers.

"Hybrid [clouds] become more interesting because now you can combine public [Azure] and private [Windows Server 2012] clouds," said Wade Wegner, CTO at Aditi Technologies, a Microsoft Cloud Partner based in India.

"With Windows Azure and Windows Server at its core, the cloud OS takes our strong legacy of running the highest scale application services and petabyte-sized data centers to the next generation of computing and delivers a modern platform for the world’s applications," Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, said in a blog post.

The Windows Server 2012 CTP comes on the heels of an event in early June in which Microsoft announced several updates to Azure, including VM Roles for running legacy applications on Windows Server and Linux VMs without major rework, as well as Windows Azure Web Sites (WAWS) that allow developers to more economically build and deploy websites on Azure.

Windows Server 2012 is slated for "release to manufacturing," or RTM, in early August, and general availability in September.

And this time Microsoft isn't just going after Amazon Web Services. The company also fixed its sights on VMware Inc. and its dominance in the virtualization hypervisor market with a program for partners called “Switch to Hyper-V,” to entice customers to migrate to Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor from VMware.

"The take-away is that Microsoft is building a set of messages for its partner community for how they can build a Microsoft Windows cloud for their customers, and of course, do it without any competitive technologies from VMware or anybody else," Gillen said.

Meanwhile, VMware has also made forays into the world of supporting multiple hypervisors. In early July, VMware said it will acquire DynamicOps, Inc. which makes cloud management software to do just that.

VMware declined to comment for this article.

Stuart J. Johnston is Senior News Writer for Contact him at

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