Microsoft Angling for the Private Cloud

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Top 10 Benefits of Virtualization

Virtualization has taken a firm hold at most enterprises these days, but the fact is we've only just begun to unleash the true potential of the technology.

Microsoft wants to wrestle enterprise virtualization and the private cloud services it enables from the grasp of VMware and is mounting a credible, sustained effort to make it happen.

In doing so, the company is bending over backward to draw as much industry support as possible through open agreements and technology partnerships across a wide range of enterprise systems providers-a far cry from the often over-bearing practices of the past when the operating system was king.

Earlier this month, news broke that the company had joined RackSpace's OpenStack family by integrating Hyper-V into the program. Conventional thinking holds that opening up its platform is the best way to work its way into entrenched VMware environments, which currently dominate the enterprise industry.

Now just this week, the company announced it was partnering with six of the top enterprise hardware vendors-Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM and NEC-to create reference architectures for organizations looking to build private IaaS platforms using Hyper-V. The idea is to create a series of blueprints that IT executives can use to provision clouds, smoothing out the rough edges involved in hardware/software integration. Examples of this cloud fast-track program are: the HP Cloud Foundation for Hyper-V, which brings together the HP BladeSystem Matrix; Microsoft System Center; and Windows Server 2008 R2 for Hyper-V as an integrated private cloud stack.

Other configurations will use a mixture of Systems Center Operations Management, Virtual Machine Manager, the Opalis workflow automation stack and elements of the former Dynamic Datacenter Toolkit now known as the Self-Service Portal. Oddly, though, the program does not include-at least not yet-the AppFabric middleware for Windows or Azure that Microsoft has touted as integral components of its private cloud strategy. When ZDnet's Mary Jo Foley asked company execs about this, they said the Fast Track program is designed for base-level infrastructure rather than the cloud application layer. In the near future, however, look for additional specs that would address components higher up in the stack, such as processes for Exchange, SharePoint and SQL Server.

It's probably safe to say that watching VMware insert its software between the hardware layer and the operating system at so many enterprises over the past decade was not a pleasant experience for Bill, Steve and the rest of the Redmond gang. And the reality is that the virtualization ship has already sailed at most enterprises, making it difficult for Microsoft to gain any headway there. But the cloud is still nascent, and whoever controls the fundamentals will have tremendous sway over the direction of the industry over the next decade.

If Microsoft is successful, the enterprise industry could quickly find itself heading back to the future.