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Microsoft's big Azure announcement is a Cloud in a Box

Simon Bisson | Oct. 21, 2014
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Cloud and Enterprise EVP Scott Guthrie used an event in San Francisco today to give an update on its Azure cloud platform, launching its on premises Cloud Platform System and the Azure Marketplace, where ISVs and developers can sell services and applications to Azure users.

He walked us through how such a CPS-based private cloud would handle updates. "We provide a validated set of updates through a framework that orchestrates up from firmware BIOS and NIC BIOS, all the way up the stack. We start by applying patches to a Hyper-V host - we drain it, patch it up, and rehydrate all back when patching completed." That process works for the entire stack, in an orchestrated fashion. By stack, Tewari means everything from hardware to workloads. Microsoft has validated key business applications, like Exchange, Lync, and Sharepoint, and given them best practice automation. 

A cloud needs one point of contact, and so Microsoft is offering CPS with unified support. Microsoft is the place you'll make the first call, and it will then take responsibility for ensuring that your support call is handled by the appropriate experts. You will need separate support for elements that aren't part of the CPS, so if you're running Linux client VMs you'll need to work with your vendor however a consistent platform will make things easier for them to provide appropriate support.

So what goes into the Microsoft Cloud Platform System? Tewari describes it as "an Azure-consistent cloud in a box, where the box is fairly big." You're not getting the complete Azure set of services in CPS, but you are getting the tools and features that let you deliver much of its infrastructure as a service, along with some platform elements. Microsoft has worked with Dell as its key hardware partner, for blade servers, for storage modules, and for networking. CPS's software comes from familiar tools, Windows Server 2012 R2 and the Hyper-V hypervisor, System center 2012 R2, and the Windows Azure Pack. As Tewari notes, "There's no special software sauce - the way we orchestrate is where you get value."

Talking about delivering the CPS, Tewari is expansive, "We've been working on this for the last 18 months, and it's taken a lot of pain to make sure we get it right. The key learning for the product team has been that the cloud is not about an individual components, it's about the entire stack working for the customer." He describes how the team worked, in one "ship room", telling us, "I have never seen a  ship room like this, with all kinds of participation, from core OS folks to the network team to the storage team, to clustering, to the System Center team, and the Azure Pack team. We were getting all these people to collaborate and fix things for the customer, a huge benefit for us." There was also work with product teams, including SQL Server and Exchange, building support for automated deployment.


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