Bringing Windows Azure Services to Windows Server

At Microsoft we have the opportunity to test and operate our software platform in our own datacenters at scale by running over 200 cloud applications with some of the largest online services in the world such as Bing, Hotmail, Xbox Live, Windows Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online.

This experience allows us to deeply learn what it means to operate modern applications at scale and the importance of providing consistent experiences and technology across Windows Azure, on-premises datacenters and hosting service providers running Windows Server. This consistency is a core part of Microsoft’s long term vision and commitment to customers and partners.

At the Worldwide Partner Conference this week we talked about how we continue to deliver on this commitment.  Released this week, a new technical preview brings two Windows Azure capabilities to  Windows Server 2012; high density Web Sites as well as Virtual Machine provisioning and management, also known as “Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS).  These technologies are specifically designed for easy incorporation into hosting service providers’ offerings for deployment to their broad customer base.  Just as in Windows Azure, both solutions are designed to be fully self-service, allowing end customers to procure and manage their own resources within a framework defined by the hosting service provider.  This technology will enable hosting service providers to easily provide a high quality, self-service offering to their customers while lowering the costs associated with delivering the service and managing customers.  In addition, both Web Sites and Virtual Machines services are accessed via the new Service Management Portal and Service Management API. The Service Management Portal brings the end customer administration experience from Windows Azure to Windows Server and also introduces a new administration console for the hosting service provider. The Service Management API is an extensible REST-based API that enables service providers to integrate an existing customer portal with these new services.

Web Sites
Hosting service providers can now deliver scalable, high density web site hosting solutions on Windows Server, to help them lower costs and increase revenue and profitability.  Delegated administration and features such as Reserved Instances allow tenant self-service and scaling while providing a smooth ramp from low cost offerings to premium services.  New features, including resource metering and throttling, allow hosting service providers to create new types of hosting offers to attract new customers.  The inclusion of the Web App Gallery allows customers to quickly provision popular Microsoft and 3rd party web applications, without coding.  Furthermore, deep integration with development tools, including WebMatrix and Visual Studio for allows rapid, iterative development and Git integration for Source Code Control. Broad language support, including ASP.NET, Classic ASP, PHP, and Node.js as well as support for the most popular web applications, ensures that hosting service providers have an offering with broad appeal. 

Virtual Machines
Virtual machine provisioning and management is a core part of the value proposition of the Microsoft Private Cloud offering for Enterprises, built on Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012. Hosting service providers can now also use this technology to offer a high quality self-service experience for their customers to provision and manage virtual machines.  Integrating their customer portal with the new Service Management API, hosting service providers can control System Center and Windows Server to create, update and operate virtual machines for their customers. 

Service Management API & Service Management Portal
As part of the new Web Sites and Virtual Machines service offerings in Windows Azure, we launched a modern, web standards based, device friendly web portal for our Windows Azure customers.  This portal has received rave reviews and has dramatically eased the manageability of the cloud services.   With this technology preview, we’re pleased to bring the same great experience we developed for Windows Azure to Windows Server for our hosting service providers.  This portal has been designed from the ground up with cloud services in mind and in bringing this portal technology to Windows Server we’ve updated it to allow our partners to adapt it to their business needs, from white label branding and theming to extending the experiences with new services. Partner demonstrated how easily they were able to rebrand the Service Management Portal and how quickly a customer could deploy and then scale a new WordPress blog using the Web Sites capability. Another partner, Apprenda, showed their application platform running as a service, seamlessly integrated into the Service Management Portal.

In addition to the clean and elegant experience for end customers, the portal has been extended to offer a service operator or administrative view.  This view enables hosting service providers to create service offerings for their customers and manage the services running within their datacenters, for example adding capacity as new customer requests come in. 

All the capabilities exposed in the Service Management Portal are enabled through a common Service Management API.   This REST based API is consistent with the API in Windows Azure that customers can use to manage their cloud services. It’s through this API that services such as Web Sites and Virtual Machines expose their capabilities to both service operators and service subscribers consuming the services.  Hosting service providers who wish to leverage their existing portal investments can also provide the same great capabilities as shown in the Service Management Portal by integrating the API into their portals. Partner Parallels showed how they replaced the Service Management Portal with their Parallels Automation system by integrating directly with the Service Management API.

The Service Management API also includes extensions that report usage of services easy integration into billing systems, enabling hosting service providers to charge for services used by their customers. Partner Zuora’s subscription billing platform illustrated how easily usage data from services can be fed into an external billing system.

When combined with the Web Sites and Virtual Machines this offering represents a turn-key solution that is operational out of the box yet adaptable to individual hosting service providers’ business needs.

One question I received yesterday after my presentation was how enterprise customers should think about this release and whether it’s something they should adopt as well.  This is a great question and one on which I wanted to provide a little more clarity.  This release was specifically designed to benefit service providers and not the typical enterprise customer.  Hosting Service providers will use these technologies to provide out-of-the-box web site and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings to their breadth customer community. 

For enterprise customers, the right solution for a dynamic datacenter and private cloud environment is Windows Server plus System Center.  Here you’ll find all the capabilities needed to aggregate resources and delegate them within the organization to allow for self-service provisioning and management of your VMs and applications, whether in your datacenter or through a Windows Azure subscription.  Plus, with the upcoming Service Pack 1 release of System Center 2012, we’ll enable customers to see and utilize capacity they’ve provisioned from service providers in the very same way as they consume their own resources or those in Windows Azure.

We’re very excited about the possibilities enabled by these new capabilities and I look forward to the feedback from the technical preview to ultimately deliver a great solution to our partners and customers.

Mike Schutz

General Manager
Windows Server and Management Marketing

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