Microsoft puts Windows Server instances in the cloud

Microsoft bolstered Windows Azure with several new capabilities today, including the ability to run Windows Server instances on Azure, theoretically making applications portable between the data center and Microsoft cloud platform.

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New capabilities include the Windows Azure Virtual Machine Role and Server Application Virtualization, Microsoft announced at the Professional Developers Conference at its corporate headquarters in Redmond, Wash. (See also Steve Ballmer is "pumped up!" about smart devices)

“Windows Azure Virtual Machine Role gives customers the ability to run an instance of Windows Server 2008 R2 running in Microsoft’s cloud, making it easier for developers to move applications to the cloud,” Microsoft said. “Server Application Virtualization gives developers the ability to transfer application images to Windows Azure, harnessing the underlying management capabilities of the platform.”

CEO Steve Ballmer and Server and Tools president Bob Muglia were expected to discuss the new capabilities at the PDC keynote Thursday morning. (See also a Q&A with Muglia)

The moves put Windows Azure on more of a par with Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud. Microsoft had earlier promised the ability to run so-called “bare-metal VMs,” similarly to how Amazon offers a variety of Windows and Linux virtual machine instances. Microsoft’s announcement today delivers on that promise.

The cloud computing market is currently divided between infrastructure-as-a-service offerings like EC2, which provide raw access to virtual machine instances, and platform-as-a-service offerings like Azure, which provide abstracted tools to developers but less access to the underlying infrastructure.

Microsoft has argued that the two types of cloud computing will start to resemble each other, and announcing Windows Server instances on Azure is one step toward making that happen. However, Amazon has said that it has no plans to embrace platform-as-a-service, saying “Our customers tell us they want the flexibility to build their applications without being locked into a particular programming model, language or operating system.”

Microsoft also introduced an “AppFabric Composition Model” for Azure, “to speed the process of assembling services by providing critical application deployment and management capabilities.”

The Microsoft press release further states: “To better connect developers to customers, Microsoft announced the Windows Azure Marketplace including the new DataMarket (formerly ‘Project Dallas’), offering premium and public demographic, financial, mapping, and entertainment data and other content. Commercially available today, the marketplace features more than 35 providers currently offering data subscriptions.”

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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