TechEd 2012: Windows Server 2012 isn't available yet, but it's running Bing

Windows Server 2012 release candidate software has been answering queries for Microsoft’s search engine

How cooked is Windows Server 2012? Cooked enough to power Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

That’s what attendees at Microsoft’s TechEd North America 2012 heard during the first day’s keynote by the company’s Server and Tools Business President Satya Nadella, who used the information to try to convince his audience that it needs to move to the new platform as soon as it’s available.

The platform, which is still in its release candidate preliminary form, has been the platform behind Bing’s production network since last week, he says.

Along with Microsoft’s platform as a service and infrastructure as a service offerings, Server 2012 will create a flexible environment that can help run corporate data centers, he says

BACKGROUND: Microsoft opens Azure to IaaS, Linux 

MORE: Is Azure a dirty word because it means cloud?

Microsoft has a new way it wants customers to look at its Azure cloud services in conjunction with its Server 2012 platform: a cloud operating system.

Nadella says this cloud OS is a blend of the company’s Windows Server and its Windows Azure cloud service, each optimized to work well together to support large data centers that span tradition data centers, private clouds and public clouds.

The result, the company says, is a more flexible environment that can add and remove capacity as needed and take advantage of the economy of public cloud use.

The OS analogy goes like this: Operating systems manage hardware and are the platform on which applications run. A cloud OS, then, manages the hardware at the scale of a data center and provides the varying platforms on which applications run.

Microsoft is saying Windows Server can manage the physical resources including pulling them together from whatever pool of resources are available – in traditional data centers, private clouds and public clouds.

A smattering of stats thrown out at Microsoft’s TechEd 2012 conference today about the raw power of Server 2012: It supports 320 logical processors per server and 4TByte of memory; it supports 64 virtual processors and 1T Byte memory per virtual machine.

Azure can provide both the IaaS and PaaS needed. Platforms include Azure’s traditional Microsoft service sand infrastructure includes support for moving Microsoft virtual machines and virtual machines based on certain flavors of Linux on virtual machines.

This virtual-machine portability is key to flexibility, allowing entire virtual machines to migrate into and out of public clouds, for example, as needed. It’s not necessary for the public cloud to be Azure.

This was all introduced by Nadella in his keynote, and later, two customers who use Windows Server 2012 and Azure together explained why.

For example, the Chicago Tribune uses Microsoft’s Azure to host its customer-facing applications, says Jerry Schulist, enterprise architect for the Tribune Company. Demand for the apps can be unpredictable, so it’s important to have the flexibility to boost capacity on the fly, which can be accommodated with Windows Server 2012 in conjunction with Azure.

Similarly, Aflac insurance needs to move its workloads where it wants to when it wants to and using a cloud service helps accomplish this, says the company’s CIO Mike Boyle. For instance, when one of the company’s agents needs to enter human resources benefit enrollments in the fourth quarter for thousands of businesses, it can call up the needed infrastructure resources on demand from Azure, managed by Windows Server 2012.

This all sounds great but it has a way to go.

Boyle says the licensing for Server 2012 needs some streamlining. He’s looking for transportability of licenses as servers are replicated or moved to new environments. “We need a different view of what compute services are,” he says. License keys should be modular and not tied to any particular machine name. “I do not want to have an issue with a key down my service when I’m trying to do an enrollment with a company with half million workers.”

Schulist says he’d like to see better prices. “I’d love to see cheaper licensing but I don’t think we’re going to get it necessarily from Microsoft,” he says. He’d like to see more licensing lumped with the service fee to keep direct licensing out of the cost equation.

Part of Nardella’s mantra was that the Microsoft cloud OS would provide high availability, but that also depends on the applications and how well they are written. “Apps need to be built assuming meantime to recovery,” he says, and that is a customer consideration. He told about an Azure customer running a new application in Azure that had 15 million unique users in seven days. The authors weren’t expecting that kind of traffic when they wrote it and need to rethink the partitioning scheme  within the app. That’s a lesson, he says.

(Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Tim_Greene.)

More on Microsoft:

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Demise of Cius offers lessons for Windows 8

Why aren’t Apple and Amazon dumping on Windows RT?

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