Like most children, I got a lot of (rarely heeded) advice from my parents. One thing that my dad was particularly fond of reminding me of was that “the journey is as important as the destination”. I suspect that IT customers are wishing their vendors would also heed this maxim.  Too often it seems that we vendors assume that customers are willing – and able – to directly jump to the end-state we’re selling: “Struggling to keep up with your business units’ IT needs? Just go to the public cloud!” The reality, as most customers tell us, is that the transition of IT infrastructure to a cloud environment (public or private) is a gradual process, with each customer’s journey different.  It’s not just the “where are we going” that customers say they need, but also the “how”. How do we get there? How do we start? How do we take advantage of our existing investments?  And helping with this journey is where Microsoft shines.

Yesterday at TechEd 2013, we made many significant announcements, the chief among them being the availability of previews for Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2.  I think it’s important to point out that rather than being disruptive releases marking a change in direction from the past, these releases are a continuation of the Cloud OS journey we kicked off at TechEd 2012, where we shared a public roadmap that successive releases would follow – a commitment that we would be right there with our customers all along the cloud journey.

Let’s make this real. Below are examples of features that allow customers to take advantage of cloud innovation at their own pace, without having to rip out existing infrastructure:

  • Seamless experience between public and private clouds: Love Windows Azure’s ease of use, but not yet ready for the public cloud? With the Windows Azure pack for Windows Server, you can provide the great self-service Azure experience for provisioning VMs and websites to your users, but running on your datacenter’s Windows Server and System Center.
  • Optimized storage: With Cloud-integrated Storage in Windows Azure and StorSimple, you can offload storage from your expensive on-premises SANs to the cloud where it makes sense, while keeping the right information local to provide the performance you need. You can do this without ripping out your existing storage solution. Not ready to tier storage to the cloud? You can now configure on-premises storage tiering using Windows Server 2012 R2.
  • Develop & test applications in the cloud: Windows Azure Infrastructure Services allows your developers to spin up a test lab within minutes and connect to your existing infrastructure if required. Once the development or testing is done, you can decide to bring the app back in-house, or leave it running in Windows Azure.
  • Multi-cloud management: With System Center, you can manage virtual machines on different clouds (private, hosted or in Windows Azure) using the same console that they are familiar with. This flexibility enables you to choose the right cloud option for your business.
  • Extend your identity management to the cloud: With Windows Azure Active Directory, you can quickly extend your existing on-premises Active Directory to authenticate users with their existing corporate credentials to Windows Azure and other cloud services.
  • Software Defined Networking: SDN features within Windows Server and System Center allow for flexible placement of networks and virtual machines, enabling customers to seamlessly scale their infrastructure to offsite datacenters.

As the sheer diversity of the features above indicates, a key part of the Cloud OS philosophy is that customers should get to decide what their journey to the cloud looks like. We can help customers who want to test the cloud waters, and we can also help customers who wish to be more aggressive. As the video below demonstrates, this is fundamentally different from the all-or-nothing approach that many IT vendors seem to be promoting. I invite you to find out more about the benefits the Microsoft platform can bring to your business.