To better understand Microsoft’s vision for a Cloud OS, start by thinking about how IT has traditionally managed server workloads. In the early days of Windows Server, you deployed and managed lots of physical servers on-premises. Each server had to be individually managed, and this meant performing tasks like configuring storage for them, configuring networking, tuning performance, and so on. Lots of servers meant lots of tasks to perform, and while scripting could automate many of these tasks, such solutions were typically inflexible and difficult to maintain.
Then along came virtualization, and suddenly you saw you could save money by retiring physical servers after migrating their workloads onto virtualization hosts. But the management paradigm stayed the same, for instead of managing lots of physical servers, you were now managing lots of virtual machines. But proliferation is proliferation whether it’s in the physical or virtual realm, and managing thousands of individual virtual machines can be just as challenging as managing physical machines.
Then the concept of cloud computing arrived—with its promises of rapid elasticity, resource pooling, and on-demand self-service. Now, if a business wants to maintain control over its IT resources, it can implement a private cloud solution on-premises using Windows Server and System Center. If scalability is the issue, the business can opt for running its applications, services, or virtual machines in Windows Azure. And if reach and customization are important, the business can use the services of a cloud hosting service provider. Each of these approaches are equally valid, and it’s up to the business to decide which to choose based on their needs and constraints.
From Microsoft’s perspective, these three approaches (private cloud, service providers, and Windows Azure) are really one and comprise one consistent platform: The Cloud OS. Windows Server forms the foundation; System Center provides the management capability; and Windows Azure delivers the solutions. In other words, cloud is not just something that happens out there; it happens wherever and whenever you need it to optimize your business. That’s what Microsoft means by cloud. For example, do you need Active Directory? You can deploy it on-premises using Windows Server. But Active Directory is already waiting for you in Windows Azure. And with Windows Server 2012 R2 you can even virtualize domain controllers and host them in a service provider’s cloud. The choice is yours.
Microsoft wants you to have the choice to implement the cloud computing model that best meets the needs of your business. And the Cloud OS—Windows Server, System Center, and Windows Azure—delivers that kind of choice to customers.