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Summary:

It looks like Microsoft is serious about becoming the operating system for cloud computing. At its Worldwide Partner Conference on Tuesday, the company announced what amounts to a white-label version of its Windows Azure cloud platform targeting current Windows Server-based web hosts.

punch face

Updated: It looks like Microsoft is serious about becoming the operating system for cloud computing. At its Worldwide Partner Conference on Tuesday, the company announced what amounts to a white-label version of its Windows Azure cloud platform targeting current Windows Server-based web hosts. This looks like a shot across the bow at VMware, which has been pushing its vCloud agenda — which spans both on-premise and cloud-based VMware deployments — for a couple years.

Microsoft has taken flak in the past for not having a legitimate hybrid cloud strategy, but it’s certainly shaping up now. With the new offering called Service Management Portal, currently in Community Technology Preview mode (Microsoft lingo for “pre-beta”), Microsoft partners can offers customers a Window Azure-like infrastructure-as-a-service experience without actually using Microsoft’s cloud. This is accomplished via a standardized management portal, but also via extensible APIs that let developers connect their hosted applications to hosts’ other specialized services, to their own on-premise resources, or even to Windows Azure, if they so desire.

Sinclair Schuller, founder and CEO of Microsoft partner Apprenda, said the move is smart as Microsoft tries to grow its cloud computing footprint. “As Microsoft is expanding their toolkit,” he said, “they’re trying to make sure it’s not a disjointed experience.” Users might want to utilize 10 different cloud services, but they don’t want to use 10 different interfaces for interacting with them.

Apprenda, which offers on-premise platform-as-a-service software for .NET applications, is a partner of Microsoft’s new offering, too. If web hosts deploy an Apprenda instance internally and plug it into the portal, customers can deploy web applications that leverage Apprenda’s auto-scaling and other PaaS capabilities right from the management portal.

In the grand scheme of things, Service Management Portal could go down as Microsoft’s most-significant blow in its battle against virtualization market leader VMware to become the operating system for the cloud. VMware has a headstart with its vCloud Datacenter Services program and vCloud Director management software, but Microsoft now essentially has an answer to both, although it still has plenty of maturing to do (especially if it wants to compete for enterprise workloads). It tried to do something similar a couple years ago with the promised Windows Azure Appliance, but that strategy, which was limited to large partners such as Dell, HP and Fujitsu, never really took off. (Fujitsu is apparently the only one of those partners that actually followed through.)

To add insult to injury, Microsoft is also working to grow its ecosystem of service provider partners with a new program helping them move off of VMware’s hypervisor and onto Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor.

Microsoft already has one big-name pilot customer for Service Management Portal in the form of web-hosting giant GoDaddy — whose involvement raises the question of just how disruptive Microsoft might be to the entire private-cloud software industry that has seen most of its traction thanks to service providers. Last year, GoDaddy announced a cloud offering based on Cloud.com’s (now Citrix’s) CloudStack software, and I’m awaiting word from GoDaddy as to whether Microsoft’s new portal might replace that offering. According to an email responsed from GoDaddy Distinguised Engineer Brian Krouse:

GoDaddy is always looking for ways to better serve our customers. We are currently exploring the new Microsoft Windows solution for our 4GH Web hosting, which is a scalable shared-hosting offering. GoDaddy is aware of Microsoft’s capabilities to run an IaaS solution and we are actively investigating the possibility. Currently, our Cloud Servers product is powered by Citrix for both Windows and Linux.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user olly.

  1. Interesting. CLOUD (Come Live Our Unrealistic Dreams) certainly is shaping up to the be last hurrah… for the web.

    There’s a new (and dangerous) maxim driving all the CLOUD folks, “As long as *the* API addresses *the* wrong part of *the* stack, scaling is code for overcharging.” Auto-scaling? Money in the(ir) bank!

    Once they have suckered you into trusting them with your entire web presence, they control too much of your company to not let them scale/charge whatever they want. “Look, here are the logs, you need more servers, quick!!” And you will need more servers than you should need, because the architecture is all wrong. But who is going to tell you that? The IT dept? Not likely. The rent-a-coders in Vietnam? No chance. Wired magazine? Not before it’s much too late.

    Once a CLOUD vendor (doesn’t matter which one) controls your company (via your web presence), your only hope will be the new Internet service destined to displace the web as king of the Internet.

    Hope your around long enough for that to emerge! It’ll be a while.

    @DanFarfan

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  2. Once they have suckered you into trusting them with your entire web presence, they control too much of your company to not let them scale/charge whatever they want. “Look, here are the logs, you need more servers, quick!!” And you will need more servers than you should need, because the architecture is all wrong. But who is going to tell you that? The IT dept? Not likely. The rent-a-coders in Vietnam? No chance. Wired magazine? Not before it’s much too late.

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