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Microsoft TechEd focuses IT pros on the 'Cloud OS'

Joab Jackson | June 4, 2013
Microsoft is gearing up Windows 8.1 for enterprise use and cloud-enabling Windows Server 2012, Visual Studio and other products

New Cloud Services
To help organizations come to terms with the idea of the Cloud OS, Microsoft plans to release the Windows Azure Pack for Windows Server. The Azure Pack includes a number of tools that will allow organizations to offer their own in-house services as cloud services, as well as bridge management of in-house resources with Azure-based resources, Anderson said. It includes a portal that users can use to manage the IT for their own projects. It also provides tools for high-density hosting of applications on a single server as well as for managing configurations of user systems.

Microsoft also announced price changes to its Azure cloud services. An announcement from Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president in the Microsoft developer division, that Microsoft would bill on a per minute granularity for usage of stock VMs was greeted with enthusiastic applause. Previously, bills were rounded up to the nearest hour. Now, if a VM only runs for six minutes the customer will be charged only for six minutes and not a full hour, Guthrie said.

Per-minute billing would save a lot of money for developers, who could do lots of short tests on Azure. Guthrie also announced a number of Azure discounts for members of the Microsoft Developer Network.

The Hyper-V Recovery Manager is another new Microsoft service. It runs as a service on Azure, though organizations can use it to manage in-house VMs. If the administration's primary system goes down, the administrator can use the service to start copies of the VMs that reside elsewhere.

"Disaster recovery has never been this easy," Woolsey said.

In addition to Azure, Microsoft is offering other cloud services through Intune, its Internet-based computer management service. Developed for small offices with limited IT help, Intune provides a set of automated updating and management functionality for keeping Windows-based business computers in operating order. A quiet success for Microsoft, Intune now is used by over 35,000 organizations, according to the company.

This new version of the service can now manage Android and Apple iOS devices, helping administrators work with their employees' consumer mobile devices, a trend known as BYOD, for bring your own device. Molly Brown, principal development lead at Microsoft, showed how an employee can access internal IT resources, through a new feature called "workplace join."

In conjunction with Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2, Intune can allow these devices to tap into internal company VPNs (virtual private networks), access data files and download enterprise apps from an app store. When the employee leaves the organization, Intune can wipe the organization data, leaving the personal data untouched.

Windows 8.1
Iain McDonald, Microsoft director of program management for Windows core, also previewed a number of new features with the Windows 8.1 update, due to be released in preview form on June 26. This version will come with a new Bluetooth peer-to-peer protocol called Miracast, which allows devices to wirelessly send video and screen images to another device, without the help of a router. Miracast would provide an easy way to show PowerPoint presentations in a conference, McDonald noted.


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