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Unleashing the Microsoft Cloud OS

Intertwining some existing cool technologies/ products with new ones -advancing the portfolio incredibly, is what your Microsoft cloud OS is all about.

In this article, I would like to talk about the need, features and impacts that can be brought about by Microsoft’s strategy this time…

Well, most of us do know that Windows Azure is Microsoft’s cloud offering. How does the Cloud OS make it any better?

Microsoft has been working extremely hard in incorporating multiple hi-end features in various portfolios- products, servers, phones and cloud. This doesn’t just restrict to product functionality but in elevating the end user experience on the whole.

An Operating System is the heart of IT. Having said that, we all also know that the amount of massive transformations that IT has been undergoing all years from client server architectures, mainframes till the cloud era. The crux of every transformation has always been- to lead (in terms of better performance, availability, reliability, security and definitely compatibility.)

When we say cloud OS, does it mean it’s an extension of the existing cloud offering? I would rather suggest this as a prolific vision that Microsoft has- a vision to a destination that will be the ultimate unification of all products/services.

Unleashing the Cloud OS..

Well lot of people have this doubt- if this is cloud OS than what is Azure? How will Microsoft segment the markets for both?  How would I decide to choose what?

The questions are many but the answer in layman terms– it will enable an organization to directly connect its on-premise environment (private datacenters) to service providers when needed (peak times , offering them the instant seamless move to integrate)

Windows 2012 in simple words, a unified single platform that will encompass an organization’s internal servers and integrate with its Azure platform cloud (public cloud). This means that it will be running on your on-premise environment and connect to Azure with its c200 online services.

How does this happen– networking, Hyper-V, storage, virtualization, automation enable this smooth transition between servers and work load distribution. Lets understand this more..

Microsoft has kept in mind three very thoughts while designing Windows 2012:

  1. Making data (any size, any type, anywhere, any device) accessible on cloud
  2. Strengthen APIs to make the process of building applications around the dots of “user experience”
  3. Integrate and tighten the core components of a datacenter- Storage, Compute and Network into a scalable, elastic platform

Bringing the Windows Server 2012

a.    The Mean Machine…(config spec)

The specs are truly terrific. Windows 2012 supports

  • 320 logical processors
  • 4TB of physical memory/server
  • Each VM scalable upto 1TB of memory in Hyper-V at no extra price
  • 64 virtual processors/VM
  • 8000 VMs/cluster
  • Virtual disks can expand upto 64TB a piece (32x than what it currently offers)
  • Capable to virtualize 99% of all SQL Databases

b.   Licensing Model

Windows Server 2012 comes in four editions

  • Windows Server 2012 Foundation: This is the foundation level platform, workable only on pre-installed platforms and doesn’t offer any virtualization privileges.
  • Windows Server 2012 Essentials: This works for SMB segments well and costs around $425/server.
  • Windows Server Standard Edition: This works for environments that are mildly virtualized, costing around $882/server.
  • Windows Server 2012 DataCenter Edition: This works well for enterprise with unlimited virtualization options for cloud, costing $4809.
  • The main point to understand here is that both the Standard and Datacenter edition are licensed on the basis of processors. As the servers are twin-socket versions, the license is based on a per two processor basis.

c.    Secret Ingredient for the Perfect Recipe of your Datacenter

It is indeed the “magic ingredient” for the seamless functioning of your Datacenter.  The recipe that you will be dealing with Windows 2012 is of the standard that has in place technologies that you need to manage 100 servers gets done by ONE Server.

  • Huge chunks of code that hamper the performance have been worked upon a lot.
  • An incredible advancement has also been made on the management end with multiple hi-end automation features that have been introduced on standards based integration.
  • An OS that is completely controlled and managed from the command line.
  • The systems have “always on” feature which assures you “reliability” – 2400 new cmdlets are present for direct control.
  • It can also be remotely controlled, the first of its kind.
  • The Server Message Block has been improvised to handle more efficiently the data transfers.
  • The Server Manager can handle many more servers at once.
  • It offers disk pooling , disk virtualization and thin provisioning of storage directly from Operating System.
  • To reduce the data corruption, a new feature called “Resilient File System (ReFS)” which introduces allocation-on-write policy.

d.    Thumping Up your Infrastructure Performance with Hyper-V

  • It is powered by Microsoft’s Hyper-V to offer “network virtualization” capability.
  • It can enable multiple network configurations to be present/co-exist on the same physical LAN to achieve robust multi-tenancy.
  • It supports upto 64 virtual processors (previous versions could support only 4)
  • It offers 1TB of memory for VMs (previous versions could support 64 GB only)
  • Share-Nothing Live Migration– this feature enables you to create/copy a VM on one Hyper-V host and move it to another Hyper-V host through a shared Ethernet cable without interruption. This is possible by mirroring writes to the source and destination storage when the move is happening.
  • Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX)– this feature enhances the speed that virtual machines read and write from.
  • Hyper-V Replica: provides active-active clustering of any capacity/workload by replicating a VM from one location to another (both synchronized). The Hyper-V Replica is highly compatible with any Storage/Network/Compute vendor.
  • NUMA –Aware scalability: this improves the efficiency of memory access

e.    Multi-Tenant Kingdom

  • Windows 2012 offers an isolated, multitenant infrastructure.
  • It provides secure access along with robust multi-tenancy capabilities
  • The hi-end multi-tenancy is achieved by Hyper-V switch, Hyper-V Network virtualization and Network QoS that help segregate the workload from one VM to another.

f.     Automation Transposition

  • Enables multiple servers to be managed from one interface
  • Centralized administration and management features to both physical and virtual space
  • Also applicable when virtual specs may be offline

g.    Empowered by PowerShell

We all do know that amount of convenience offered by GUI but we can never ignore the speed of working on a command line interface. After a series of multiple conversations, Microsoft successfully included PowerShell. UNIX has always been on edge with the Command Line interface but not anymore.

  • Windows 2012, is completely controllable remotely.
  • Lot of new features have been introduced post multiple user interface discussions that could have been possibly overcome (command line limitations).
  • GUI is still available for users more comfortable in GUI.
  • It also offers an installation method – Server Core which enables installation of OS over the network.

h.   Harnessing the Ultimate Power with Microsoft’s System Center 2012

Microsoft has worked indeed hard to channelize and improvise System Center 2012 to offer an integrated, unified and powerful management suite.

  • It is highly compatible- works well with Citrix, VMware and Hyper-V machines.
  • It comes as a single unified platform for management, deployment and services which essentially means you will get lot of add-on modules too like Virtual Machine Manager etc.
  • You also get many more exciting features that may be,  not very needed at the moment but will offer ease of use in future.
  • It also offers you the public cloud capabilities though the focus may seem more on private cloud.

(Please refer our earlier blog to get more insights on Hyper-V and System Center: http://msexchangeguru.com/2011/07/23/hyper-vs-vmware-2/ )

i.  Securing Up

When the focus of cloud OS is about connecting your private cloud datacenters with service providers, the greatest concern is then- SEURITY. Well, security has been a thought that keeps running across all boundaries- how secure is my data? The cloud OS has answers to these questions with some of the magnificent features listed below:

  • One Identity: provides centrally managed authentication and authorization services.
  • VPN Site to site: this feature provides secure connectivity between enterprises/SMBs and service providers through IKEv2-IPsec protocol.

Microsoft’s cloud OS enables virtualization as a core element in OS and not an additional layer anymore. Today the nature of business is not just dynamic but also, it expects us to do more with less- segregating costs from all aspects.  To drive and lead these expected quick transformations in an agile manner, we need to have the ability to deploy and configure infrastructure seamlessly across borders.

The cloud OS will enable almost nil to minimal service disruption.  It will definitely help all organizations to channelize their efforts in cost management too by avoiding expenses in demand and non-demand zones.

Windows Server 2012, is definitely the next destination that all organizations are sooner or later venture in. Do give it a shot… 😉

Anita Raj
Technology Evangelist
Team @MSExchangeGuru

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