Server 8 Benefits from Lessons Learned With Azure

Microsoft didn't just whip up Server 8 out of the blue. Its experience running Azure played heavily into the new server's design.

So by now the cat's out of the bag on Windows Server 8 and how much of a monster upgrade it will be. But Microsoft didn't just come up with this list of features in a vacuum, or out of some desire for Paul Maritz's head (well, maybe…). Server 8 is the culmination of almost two years of being a cloud service provider.

Microsoft announced Windows Azure in late 2008 and it went live in 2009. Microsoft built it on what it had at the time, namely, Windows Server 2008 R2. There was nothing like running a cloud service across thousands of physical servers to make the company realize the shortcomings of Server 2008 real fast.

"In the process of running a public cloud, there's a tremendous amount of learning we're able to take and put back into our server operating system and make it more public-ready, so there's a great synergy to being on both sides," said Amy Barzdukas, general manager of the server and tools division's marketing and communications.

Among the lessons: multitenancy and automation. "You can't manage hundreds or thousands of servers one at a time. Writing it once and deploying it to hundreds of servers is the only way to go in the cloud," said Mike Schutz, also a senior director with Microsoft.

That's manifest in the enhanced Power Shell in Server 8, which adds thousands of new features and the ability to export commands and functions, so you write a function once and it can be replicated over thousands of servers, if need be.

The other change was in virtualization. "What makes a cloud OS is you need to make sure the infrastructure is multitenant. What we've learned from building Azure and our own cloud services like Office 365 is how to weave multitenancy capabilities into the OS," said Schutz.

Server 2008 had machine virtualization but it didn't do network virtualization. You needed virtual LANs to divide the network, which are not easy to set up and manage. Server 8 will come with full network virtualization so you can even have the same IP address range for two companies and they would not conflict.

When it's done, if everything comes out right, Microsoft will have a complete set of cloud services for both on-premises and on-demand, allowing customers to mix their own private cloud with Azure, Live, Office 365 and Dynamics Live, plus whatever else they have in mind. Schutz argued that this will be Microsoft's competitive advantage.

"We'll be the only ones offering comprehensive services and the ability to build your own private clouds, all with common and identity management and developer tools. This is something customers would lose [if they went elsewhere]. If they go to Amazon, they won't have an on-premises cloud. Similar, if I use VMware, they don't have a public cloud offering. They have piece-part offerings but it's hard to find anyone who has the whole thing," he said.

Welcome regulars and new readers alike. Here are a few more recent blog items from yours truly. You may follow me on Twitter here.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10