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Microsoft Transitions Cloud OS to New Azure Stack

When Microsoft rolled out Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012, the company coined it and the then-new Azure Pack as its Cloud OS. While Cloud OS indeed provided the building blocks to build Azure-like clouds in private datacenters and third-party hosting providers, many say it's not seamless. Also Azure itself is a very different cloud than it was in 2012.

Cloud OS is a generic term used by a number of other providers including Cisco and Hewlett Packard. You can expect to see Microsoft phase out its Cloud OS brand that described Microsoft's approach to Windows Server and System Center in favor of the new Azure Stack. Along with the new Operations Management Service, which enables management of multiple servers, clouds and virtual machines, Azure Stack is a product that substantially advances upon the Azure Pack in that it aims to allow enterprises and hosting providers to build and manage cloud infrastructure that truly mirrors the functionality and experience of the Azure public cloud.

While Cloud OS as an amalgamation of Microsoft's datacenter software offerings didn't quite live up to its billing, Microsoft officials were confident at Ignite that the Azure Stack, its new operating system software including the new Nano Server configuration and containers, will enable a common infrastructure for on-premises datacenters and Azure. Time will tell whether Microsoft delivers on that promise but Azure Stack will come next year with Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016, Microsoft officials explained here in Chicago this week. Corporate VP Brad Anderson introduced Azure Stack Monday in the opening keynote of Ignite.

"This is literally us giving you all of Azure for you to run in your datacenters," Anderson said. "What this brings you is you get that great IaaS and PaaS environment in your datacenters. You have incredible capability like a unified application model that gives you a one-click deployment experience for even the most complex, multitier applications and then you get that cloud-inspired infrastructure. We're giving you the same software controller that we built for our network, the name is the same, network controller.  We're giving you our load balancing. We're giving you all the storage innovation."

Microsoft released the second technical preview of Windows Server 2016 Monday and the Azure Stack is slated for a later test version. Ryan O'Hara, a Microsoft program director, explained in an Ignite briefing Tuesday the Azure Stack will offer more features than the Azure Pack. Among other things, it will offer all of the services of both IaaS and PaaS and all of the Azure management tools. "We think about Azure Stack as the delivery of Azure innovations on premises," O'Hara said.

In Monday's keynote, Jeff Woolsey, a Microsoft senior technical product manager, demonstrated the Azure Stack. "You see the same IaaS virtual machines, the same network interfaces, the same public IP addresses, the same BLOB storage, the same SQL [and] the same role-based access control both in Azure and in Azure Stack," he said. Through the Azure Portal, Woolsey showed how to associate such Azure services as networking, compute and storage, as well as Azure's software-based load balancers, software-defined network controllers and the distributed firewall. Into the Azure Stack. "We've packaged those up and put those in the Azure Stack for you so you're getting those same software-defined networking capabilities," he said.

Azure Stack will be a key component of the next version of Windows Server but it will be a separate offering. As it rolls out, we'll see if this provides the true vision of the hybrid cloud platform formerly known as Cloud OS.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/06/2015 at 12:10 PM


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