Windows Azure, The Microsoft Cloud & The Future Of Windows Hosting

2011-09-23 by Tim Attwood

According to Microsoft, the cloud is coming, and the company is making sure that they are able to not only cash in on theh many businesses that will be using it, but that they can provide the kind of functionality companies will want from their cloud provider. Microsoft was late to the game of cloud adoption, initially aiming for private cloud infrastructure that would allow companies to remain as the exclusive users of the over-arching cloud system, but as the industry has evolved, Microsoft has developed a number of products aimed at capturing the growing market for cloud leadership. To date, their most notable foray into the world of cloud computing has been Windows Azure, a cloud platform that can host, build and scale Web applications using servers from Microsoft. It can be compared in many respects to Windows 2008 Hyper-V, though with a slightly different emphasis and feature set.

The Face of Server Virtualization

In 2008, Microsoft released Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, a combination of a server platform and virtualization system that allowed companies to isolation and partition their data on servers, creating a Windows VDS, or virtual dedicated server. These partitions helped to keep interaction between server pieces to a minimum, and the virtualized partitions created by the Hyper-V environment did not have access to the physical processor of the server, but rather a virtual image of it that was managed by the Hypervisor. The Hypervisor provided access controls for the administrator to set permissions, and a Windows Server 2008 or 2008 R2 Standard, Datacenter or Enterprise edition was required in order to act as host for the server. Main features of the Windows Server AppFabric included Caching, which permitted high-speed access and availability to data in order to minimize calls to the data source, and service hosting management, which provided for easier development and deployment of services and legacy data components.

The Evolution of Windows Virtualization

Now, Microsoft hopes to extend the functionality of its Windows VDS thanks to Windows Azure. Azure is divided into three brands – the Windows Azure operating system, SQL Azure, and Windows Azure App Fabric. The operating system itself functions much like Windows 2008 Hyper-V, but instead of being installed over a private server network is used as a platform as a service offering, allowing users full functionality on any networked computer and hosted on Microsoft’s cloud servers. SQL Azure is a cloud-based version of the SQL server, and it AppFabric provides support for applications both on-premise and in the cloud. When compared to Windows 2008 Hyper-V Virtualization, the Azure AppFabric adds several extra layers, including Service Bus, which helps to maintain the connectivity between services and apps that are loosely connected. When registered with Service Bus, services are easily accessed, making network topography more streamlined. Azure’s AppFabric also comes with Access Control, meant to build a form of federated access control into applications and services without the need for extensive programming knowledge.

The Relationship between Old and New

The Windows Azure operating system is a hosted cluster located at Microsoft datacenters, which manages the resources of apps and services that are running on top of Azure. Azure has been described as the “cloud layer” that sits on top of current Windows 2008 Server systems, and uses a modified form of Hyper-V, the Windows Azure Hypervisor, in order to offer the functionality of cloud computing to companies that are currently using virtualized solutions. The Azure Services Platform that runs on top of Windows 2008 is able to offer .NET support, ASP.NET, PHP, Java SDK and Ruby SDK. Scaling of all cloud service is controlled by the Azure Fabric controller in order to prevent server environments from crashing if one of the datacenters goes down. Together, Windows 2008 and Azure are able to deliver a package that provides both for virtualized environments while also offering support for cloud transition.

The Future of Hosting

Windows 2008 Hyper-V Hosting continues to be a viable solution for companies that are choosing virtualization as their server hosting method of choice, but Microsoft is now offering Azure functionality that can be layered on top of Hyper-V in order to allow for the move to more robust cloud services. Azure is the vehicle Microsoft has chosen to introduce companies to their cloud computing offering, and expectations are for the OS to both replace existing Hyper-V solutions, and itself be replaced as cloud computing continues to evolve and the options for functional cloud performance expand.

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Tim Attwood


Tim Attwood is a Product Manager and Marketing specialist at myhosting.com. myhosting.com offers 13+ years of hosted service experience, and provides reliable and cost effective Web Hosting, Hosted Exchange Email and VPS Hosting Services, aimed to help enhance productivity & maximize resources.

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