Targeting cloud, Microsoft set to revamp major enterprise software platforms

By , Network World |  Software, hybrid cloud, Microsoft

Microsoft today is showing off improvements to most of its enterprise infrastructure software designed to make it simpler for businesses to deploy hybrid cloud services that can allocate resources as needed.

The announcements at its annual TechEd North America conference come about a year after the company delivered a major overhaul of the same platforms -- Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio and System Center -- as well as new features in its Azure cloud service and Intune PC- and device-management service.

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This is a new, accelerated pace the company is adopting for updates and upgrades to it software offerings, driven by its experience developing features and management tools it needs to run Azure, says Brad Anderson, Microsoft vice president of Windows Server and System Center. He calls this cloud-first engineering.

"We are literally refreshing every one of the on-premises infrastructure products from Microsoft," says Anderson, who will be detailing the new features at the conference in New Orleans.

These include Microsoft's much touted Hekaton technology, which can speed up the transaction-processing time of SQL Server transactions and improve deduplication, possibly reducing the storage footprint of data in Windows Server more than 90%, he says.

Upgrades to Visual Studio include tools for IT staff to create virtual machines of application servers that are glitchy and ship them to developers where they can be fixed offline, he says.

Many of the new feature were proved first in Azure and are now being pushed into on-premises products, Anderson says, actually using Azure code in the enterprise products.

All the new versions will be available for preview later in June via download from Microsoft sites and all except for SQL Server will be shipped by the end of the year.

Hybrid clouds use a mix of private cloud infrastructure owned by businesses, public cloud services and Microsoft's own Azure cloud services, which it regards as distinct from a public cloud service.

The company will be releasing Windows Azure Pack, which lays the Azure Web portal to Windows Server and System Center on-premises products.

Also on tap for Anderson's keynote is a description of some of the new features coming with Windows 8.1, the first major upgrade to the new desktop operating system.

Here are details of the features that will be described and demonstrated at TechEd:

Windows Server 2012 R2

Windows Server has advances in software-defined networking that include partner announcements about extending and enhancing Hyper-V network virtualization. This includes a site-to-site VPN gateway that automatically creates secure links between data centers and assets in service provider networks.

Through software, storage can now be accommodated on commodity server hardware rather than dedicated SAN infrastructure.

It can also deduplicate data, consolidating repetitive strings. Anderson says a demonstration will show how the data footprint for a VDI deployment can be reduced 95%.

Hyper-V virtualization within Windows Server can replicate copies of data to service provider data centers and then enable further replication by the providers for purposes of disaster recovery.

A new hybrid cloud feature enables stretching corporate computing resources into a public cloud by moving Web servers into a public cloud while retaining their old IP addresses, leaving the data tier back in the corporate data center.

The new version of the server simplifies setting up Active Directory Federated Services, which enables single sign-on to related Web applications during a single online session, essentially extending Active Directory to Azure.

A feature called Windows Server Work Folders enables replicating data from local hard drives to a data center, then re-replicating it out to other devices.

During the keynote Microsoft will demonstrate fast and slow storage and how that can be optimized to improve input/output operations per second (IOPS).

SQL Server 2014

The latest version will include Hekaton, the Microsoft code name for its new in-memory processing for applications in the database that the company says can dramatically improve the number of transactions per second. Customers will attest to increases of 15 times on the same hardware, Anderson says. There will be a demonstration of this from a perspective of business intelligence.

SQL has the ability to do backup and disaster recovery to Azure.

System Center

This server will have the same portal that Azure had that is being enabled by Azure Pack. This could be used with System Center, for example, to enable end users in a department to create new virtual machines within cloud infrastructure based on policies set up by IT. "It's self-service, exactly as if you were to go to Azure," Anderson says.

Visual Studio 2013

This software development platform can be tied in to Azure so when developers are ready to test whether new applications will scale up they can create virtual machines within Azure on which to run the tests, then turn off the virtual machines when testing is done.

The new version gives individuals visibility into portions of the code other development team members are working on, visibility into what tests have been run, and access to logs that show who has worked on what blocks of code. Individuals can also chat natively within Visual Studio with other developers. Some of these features will be demoed.

Visual Studio's connection to System Center has been improved, reducing the time to resolution of problems that are found with apps in production. When IT encounters such problems it can snapshot the server on a virtual machine that the developer can work on offline, find a fix and publish it to IT to roll out as an update.

Azure

Microsoft is revising the billing model for Azure for Virtual Machines, Web Roles and Worker Roles services so customers pay per minute rather than per hour, which gives customers the opportunity to save money via more precise charges.

Intune

This service for PC and device management and protection is being expanded to do a degree of mobile device management for Windows, Apple iOS and Android devices. Support for Android is new.

With this service, IT can set up policies for the devices that are automatically applied when devices are registered to the service by end users. The end users can then self-provision the applications they need to get their jobs done.

A demo will show how the service can wipe corporate data off a worker's device and leave the worker's data intact.

Anderson describes this as similar to Exchange Active Synch but with finer controls.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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