Microsoft: New server OS needed for cloud era

Redmond has fundamentally redesigned Windows Server 2012 so customers can experience the benefits of "true virtualization" and better manage the influx of data, devices and apps in the corporate arena.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

The increasing adoption of cloud computing, which has led to the growing deluge of data, devices and apps, calls for a new server operating system (OS) that is designed for the cloud in order for companies to realize the true benefits of scalability, agility and availability, said Microsoft executives.

Michael Park, corporate vice president for Windows Server and Microsoft's management marketing group, told ZDNet Asia in an interview Tuesday that the role of the sever OS is expanding, driven by the exponential growth of data, devices and apps as well as cloud computing.

"In the past it's been about managing hardware and platforms, but there's a new role for the OS in the era of cloud which has dealt IT a level of scale that most people hadn't thought about before," Park said.

He noted that most companies' server rooms are seldom homogenous and just as many workloads will be housed on premise as they are hosted on public cloud services. Hence, Microsoft sees a cloud-based server OS as one that is flexible enough to allow customers to manage apps and data in public cloud environments while enjoying elasticity and scalability for on-premise and private cloud deployments, he stated.

Designed for the cloud
Jeffrey Snover, distinguished engineer and lead architect at Microsoft's Windows Server division, who was at the same interview, added that the newly-released Windows Server 2012 was fundamentally engineered such that every layer of the stack would be suited and ready for cloud computing.

For instance, this meant designing clustered file servers of 64 nodes to provide larger storage space to accommodate the growing corporate data, as well as storage racks that offers continuous, rather than high, availability capabilities, Snover explained.

Redmond's approach differed from its rivals because the latter would simply add a virtualization layer on top of their existing systems and call the whole thing a "cloud OS", the executive said. Customers will subsequently get disappointed when they realize the products they bought from these competing vendors did offer some benefits but not the business agility promised to them, he added.

What customers need in managing their IT systems is "true virtualization" in that their CPU, storage, and networking systems are all virtualized and enabled for cloud computing, Snover pointed out.

IT vendors tend to tout that their virtual machines (VMs) are mobile, in that it can move from one virtualized data center to another, for example. However, this is not entirely true because when the VM changes its IP address "everything breaks" and the tech team will need to manually intervene to manage the migration, Snover said.

With Windows Server 2012, which enables network virtualization, such migration issues would not occur because the IP address is retained for the VM even when it is transferred around, he stated.

Asia appeal
Park also pointed out the Hyper-V functionalities will appeal particularly to customers in Asia. Companies based in the region or have offices here would appreciate the ability to run and scale their IT capabilities according to user and performance needs across different geographies and time zones, he explained.

This essentially enables IT automation to support the bulk of business operations the whole day, thus freeing up the company's IT staff to focus on developing innovations for the business and not be too caught up in maintaining the IT systems, the Redmond executive said.

After all, companies in Asia will need to stand out in order to compete with rivals from the various growth economies elsewhere. This benefit applies not only to multinational companies but to small and midsize businesses too, he added.

One company that is reaping the benefits of the new OS is IT outsourcing services company Asia Information Communication Technology (AICT).

Phan Trung Lam, technology deputy director of AICT, said the company was "very impressed" by trying Windows Server 2012. "[It] helps our customers manage our systems and applications across their private cloud environments as they scale with our business. This is a dramatic leap forward."

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