Cloud Insights from Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President, Windows Server & System Center
For a lot of IT pros, the last two posts (here and here) have been a nice overview of the Hybrid Cloud model, but they’ve been waiting to get technical. Starting with this post, I’ll begin a deep look at the specific technology that supports and maximizes Hybrid Clouds, as well as the tools available for use in this environment. A lot of IT pros are looking for how to build this, and in this post I’ll identify what those component pieces are, and take a look at the work Microsoft is doing to provide support for these hybrid scenarios.
In terms of pure component pieces, a Microsoft Hybrid Cloud is pretty simple:
To start, it’s important to understand how each of these four pieces operate individually and how they then interoperate to create the Hybrid environment.
I’ve posted dozens of times about the enterprise-class, simple, cost-effective, app-focused, user-centric cloud-optimized business solutions offered by Windows Server. What isn’t talked about as often is that Windows Server is the on-prem foundation of the Hybrid Cloud. Because Windows Server can take advantage of the latest and greatest datacenter-class hardware available, building and operating private and public clouds is easy.
With Windows Server as a foundation, Windows Azure, System Center, and Windows Azure Pack each amplify the inherent capabilities of Windows Server in a different way – and these capabilities are really exciting for enterprises and service providers.
(As a quick refresher, the seven key capabilities that we focus on with Windows Server are: 1) Server virtualization, 2) Storage, 3) Networking, 4) Server management & automation, 5) Web & application platform, 6) Access & information protection, and 7) Virtual desktop infrastructure. You’ll see each of these capabilities represented throughout this Hybrid Cloud series.)
Windows Server means Power for your datacenter and your cloud.
With Windows Server as the on-prem foundation of the Hybrid Cloud, Windows Azure is the critical other half – the 100% cloud-based part of the Hybrid Cloud. Azure and Windows Server are equals in this Hybrid model, and we’ve worked to make the user experience of these two environments consistent. Azure is open and flexible, and it enables quick development, deployment and management of applications. This application support is a huge benefit – you can build, test, deploy, and maintain apps built using any language, any tool, and/or any framework.
Creating a connection between Windows Server, System Center, and Windows Azure Pack from Windows Azure is possible with these configuration steps.
Creating a private cloud with WS, SC and WAP are possible with these configuration.
With Windows Azure, you have Flexibility.
System Center can be described in two simple words: Unified Management. With System Center, you get management, not only for on-prem resources, but also across the entire Hybrid Cloud. This management is so thorough and so powerful that a truly Hybrid environment is impossible without a world-class management solution like System Center. The ability to provision, automate, self-serve, and monitor Windows Server and Azure through a consistent interface and with a consistent management experience simply cannot be overstated – and only System Center can do it.
(One other quick refresher – the five key capabilities delivered by System Center are pretty straightforward: 1) Infrastructure provisioning, 2) Infrastructure monitoring, 3) Automation and self-service, 4) Application performance monitoring, and 5) IT service management. Each of these things are delivered consistently across the entire Microsoft Hybrid Cloud.)
With System Center you get Control of your Hybrid Cloud.
Historically, private and public cloud consumption have been dramatically different. The Windows Azure Pack (WAP) significantly reduces the user interface differences between Azure and private clouds. WAP enables customers to embrace public and private clouds by integrating directly with System Center and Windows Server, and it ships with built-in familiarity and a gentle learning curve.
WAP provides IT pros with multiple management avenues for their environment depending on their needs and how they access the data, and it also provides a consistent experience between System Center and Azure.
In conjunction with System Center, WAP provides a self-service portal for managing many of the moving parts found in any cloud infrastructure: Websites, Virtual Machines and Networks, Service Bus, Usage reporting, Automation tasks, Users, and many other cloud resources. It brings the power of Windows Azure into the on-prem IT environment, and it enables multi-tenant cloud management with a Windows Azure-consistent experience.
How does our competition stack up? With public cloud-only vendors like Amazon, customers need to spend time setting up and maintaining a patchwork of partner solutions to manage across public and private clouds – and no matter how many vendor solutions are used, any admin running a hosted cloud will be hard pressed to find something like the Windows Azure Pack which has been specifically built to provide customers with a consistent management experience across public and private environments.
This kind of Visibility means you can better control, understand, and capitalize on your IT resources.
To recap: Power (Windows Server), Flexibility (Windows Azure), Control (System Center), and Visibility (Windows Azure Pack) are the strengths combined in a Hybrid Cloud. This Hybrid environment effectively crosses conventional boundaries to maximize traditional resources and enable a truly modern datacenter.
When public and private environments are proficiently managed, the extensibility and functionality of a Hybrid Cloud environment can be uniquely powerful.
What I think is especially cool about Microsoft’s approach to this Hybrid Cloud model is that our support for this environment is limited to the compute, network, and storage aspects – but we have also created an awesome array of tools to make your cloud more efficient, productive, and economical.
These tools cover capabilities like: Infrastructure Provisioning, Infrastructure Monitoring, Application Performance Monitoring, Automation & Self-Service, and IT Service Management.
To really understand how these tools operate within a Hybrid Cloud, I want to explain what they do and how enterprises and service providers use them on a daily basis.
The capability to provision physical, virtual, and cloud infrastructures to effectively manage workload scale/performance, multi-tenancy, and chargeback is handled simply and efficiently with Virtual Machine Manager and Windows Server/Windows PowerShell. An example of Infrastructure Provisioning at work is during the deployment any of the tenant provisioning out-of-the-box workloads (like Exchange, SharePoint, or Lync) for tenants. In fact, the majority of the IaaS/PaaS/SaaS configuration and deployment steps fall into this category, too.
For more information on how these tools enable Infrastructure Provisioning, you can check out some deep, technical content from reference the following:
Operations Manager provides cloud admins with the ability to do two critical things: Ensure reliable performance/availability for the delivery of underlying business and operational SLAs, and provide incredibly deep and detailed insight that enable predictable application SLAs to application owners and business stakeholders. This builds upon the work we have done with the Azure Management Pack which allow users to monitor hybrid environments from the System Center solutions they already know and love.
Tools like infrastructure monitoring and application performance monitoring are in action whenever there is live application monitoring/debugging, or when there are environment health state awareness with actionable remediation steps.
For more information on how Operations Manager enables Infrastructure and Application Performance Monitoring, you can read more here:
For centralized visibility and control over all of the datacenter infrastructure used to host applications and resources, Automation and Self Service are achieved with Windows PowerShell and System Center + Windows Azure. Common scenarios that call for these tools include, automated VM migration and management, automated app management (like updates, remediation, and rollback), and self-service/automated provisioning of resources, services, or apps.
For more information on how these tools enable Automation and Self-Service, check out these overviews:
IT Service Management covers processes like ITIL/MOF enablement, service and release management, and things like incident, change, problem, and event management.
For more information about how these tools enable IT Service Management, you can reference the following:
Taken together, these tools and products offer something very unique in the tech industry.
One of the biggest values to enterprise customers and service providers, as noted above, is the user experience with the Microsoft Hybrid Cloud. Some vendors (like Amazon, for example) put the burden of integrating public and private clouds on the customer, while others (VMware, for example) simply do not have anything that equals our experience managing large scale public clouds – and this limits their ability to anticipate and plan for customer needs in this space. Microsoft’s experience managing large public clouds has directly led to the things we’ve developed in Windows Azure, and what’s now available in the Windows Azure Pack.
With these component pieces of the Microsoft Hybrid Cloud in mind, later this week I’ll start discussing in detail the best practices for planning, building, deploying, and maintaining a Hybrid Cloud.