A cloud OS, Windows Azure is. OS here is a collective term to signify the abilities to identify and manage computation, networking, and storage resources in data center and form a multi-tenant environment to host application instances relying on these resources. These concepts have been much discussed.
"Web Site" is a new feature (and in preview as of July 23, 2012) of the upcoming Windows Azure. Now it is amazingly simple to establish web presence for either production use, or research and development to quickly launch, scale, and take down an ephemeral site, for example, with very little effort and low cost. A user will be able to quickly create a web site with Windows Azure Database (previously known as SQL Azure) or MySQL, from a gallery with open source applications in multiple frameworks (ASP.NET, PHP, Node.js). Additionally, various development and deployment tools including Visual Studio, Git, FTP, and WebMatrix are all supported. There is also built-in monitoring of performance and usage data.
IT pros must not overlook this feature and assume all web sites on all platforms are created equal. Windows Azure is a cloud platform and the Web Site feature comes with all the essential characteristics of a cloud application. High availability, load balancing, fault and update domains, scalability, and elasticity are either automatically available at web site creation time or configurable with deployment settings in Windows Azure. The deployment of an industrial-strength business-ready web site with global reach and the predictability of go-to-market with extremely low TCO are now simply within a matter of minutes at an IT operations level. And both are strategic IT capabilities for a business or an organization of any size. Developing, establishing, and maintaining a cloud application is no longer a developer’s specialty and becoming part of IT pros’ routines.
Get a free trial Windows Azure account and install WebMatrix to start experimenting and expanding your IT capabilities. The following samples some of the user experience. There are also a Windows Azure Pricing Calculator to help realizing the cost model and free Microsoft Patterns and Practices ebooks offering general guidance on architecting and developing cloud applications.
Below shows, in Windows Azure management portal, a wizard guiding the user to start and create a web site integrated with database or from a gallery with just a few clicks.
There are blogs, CMS, and ecommerce open source apps included in the gallery.
WebMatrix, a free web tool from Microsoft, delivers a rich and consistent Windows user experience in developing and deploying a web site by offering templates and popular open source applications.
New and flexible ways to make changes of a Windows Server 2012 installation after the fact are available. And IT pros can now convert a server from and to Server Core, and change the availability of server components that are previously committed at an installation time. This introduces new dynamics and exciting scenarios for improving supportability, efficiency, and security. This article highlights the three available installation options and some key operations based on the Release Candidate, Build 8400. There is additional information of Windows Server 2012 including: a free eBook, available editions, and a reference table summarizing the available features in each installation option available elsewhere.
This is the default and preferred configuration for deploying Windows Server 2012. Server Core was introduced in Windows Server 2008 as a minimal installation option and a low-maintenance environment with limit functionality, while reducing:
It is installed without graphical user interface and with only the binaries required by configured server roles.
Notice that the preference for deploying Server Core of Windows Server 2012 in an enterprise signifies a new OS standard with improved user experience and supportability while still offering the above mentioned key attributes for private cloud computing. And the growing number of Server Core instances in production also suggests even higher market demands for process automation, remote management, etc. in enterprise IT space. And for IT pros, that means PowerShell scripting, a lot of. Which is why in Windows Server 2012, PowerShell support achieves a critical mass with 2,400+ cmdlets compared to around 230 in the early days of Windows Server 2008.
Server with GUI
This installation option is the familiar one by most IT pros. It installs the user interface and all server tools. The default settings are shown in Figures 1 and 2. In Windows Server 2012, the interface although with Metro-style looks and feels, it however does not support Metro-style applications without adding Desktop Experience feature.
Figure 1. Default GUI Settings of Windows Server 2012 full Installation Shown in Server Manager
Figure 2. Default GUI Settings of Windows Server 2012 full Installation Shown in PowerShell
One important deployment feature in Windows Server 2012 is that the ability to convert from a Server with GUI deployment to a Server Core installation, and vice versa, with PowerShell. This is different from that in Windows Server 2008 release where one cannot change the installation option of a server, once installed. To convert an installation from Server with GUI to Server Core, run the following PowerShell command:
Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra -Restart
And the installation will take minute to reconfigure followed by rebooting into Server Core with all settings removed from User Interfaces and Infrastructure as shown in Figure 3 below:
Figure 3. Settings in Server Core of Windows Server 2012 from Removing Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra
Notice the above converting from a Server with GUI to Server Core installation does not completely remove all the files associated from the local disk. Such that to re-install the GUI components from this state, simply run:
Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell -Restart
This will convert this Server Core installation back to Server with GUI with settings shown in Figures 1 and 2. To completely remove all associated files and dependent components of a role or feature, use the –Remove flag. This brings the feature to a state called “disabled with payload removed.” And to reinstall a role or feature disabled with payload removed, one will need to have an installation source and use the –Source for specifying the path. And the component sources must be from the exact same version of Windows for the reinstallation to work. Without the –Source option, PowerShell will use Windows Update by default. This ability to remove and reinstall a component of Windows Server 2012 is presented as “Features on Demand.”
Minimal Server Interface
This is new. In Windows Server 2012, with a Server with GUI installation one can remove the Server Graphical Shell (which provides full GUI for server) to set a full server installation with the so-called Minimal Server Interface option with the following PowerShell comlet.
Unstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell -Restart
This basically provides a Server with GUI, but without installing Internet Explorer 10, Windows Explorer, the desktop, and the Start screen. Additionally, Microsoft Management Console (MMC), Server Manager, and a subset of Control Panel are still in place. Minimal Server Interface requires 4 GB more disk space than Server Core alone. Figure 4 shows the user experience of Minimal Server Interface in which the server boots with the shown settings:
Figure 4. User Experience of Minimal Server Interface of Windows Server 2012
Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure is the set of features providing a minimal server interface for supporting GUI management tool. Uninstalling Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure at this time will further convert the server to a Server Core installation with the settings in Figure 3.
There is an apparent inheritance relationship between Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra and Server-Gui-Shell as illustrated in Figure 5.
Figure 5. Dependency Between Server GUI Components in Windows Server 2012
CTP2 offers customers an opportunity to evaluate both System Center 2012 and Windows Server 2012, both are the enabling technologies for constructing private cloud with hybrid scenarios. There are important updates and enhancements to System Center 2012 components and this post is a quick reference as listed below. Notice that pertinent information of all components is in the technical documentation of the CTP2 release of System Center 2012 SP1. There is also much information in TechNet library.
This is an add-on of SCVMM 2012 and a web-based interface configured as a virtual directory in IIS and offers a single pane of glass to manage both public and private clouds. It is a strategic tool to delegate cloud resources management with a self-service role-based security model.
It provides a vehicle for managing the change/configuration management of Microsoft platform. It is an integral part of the overall software deployment and patching solution for monitoring hardware and software inventories and remediating computers for compliance settings. Notice information regarding the prerequisites is available for better planning and yes, there is also a survival guide.
Data Protection Manager (DPM)
DPM is a backup and recovery solution for Microsoft workloads. It provides out-of-the-box protection for Files and Folders, Exchange Server, SQL Server, System Center Virtual Machine Manager, SharePoint, Hyper-V, and client computers. For large-scale deployments, DPM also allows you to monitor your backups through a central console or remotely.
This is an antimalware and security solution for Microsoft platform.
It is to monitor infrastructure and help ensure predictable performance and availability of target applications, and offers comprehensive monitoring for your datacenter and resources deployed to private and public clouds.
This component employs a runbook which is an artifact with specifications of hierarchy, dependencies, steps, etc. to orchestrate, integrate, and automate IT processes. It offers enterprise IT a vehicle to capture best practices and delivers services with repeatability, predictability, and consistency.
This integrated platform is with built-in processes for incident and problem resolution, change control, and asset lifecycle management. It facilitates enterprise IT’s adoption of those practices in Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).
Virtual Machine Manager
SCVMM is a datacenter management solution enabling IT to configure and manage virtualization host, networking, and storage resources in order to create and deploy virtual machines and services to a private cloud.
In addition, CTP2 also supports Server App-V for applications that create scheduled tasks during packaging and virtual application packages from applications installed remotely on a native server.