Unveiling The Microsoft Cloud Platform System, powered by Dell

Yes!!! At last we can talk about what we have been working on for close to 18 months – “San Diego” – that was the code name for what is now “Microsoft Cloud Platform System” (CPS), which was announced earlier today by Scott Guthrie.

These 18 months have been a journey for all of us in the product group. It began, as all journeys should, as conversations with our customers. What followed has evolved how we think about and engineer our products. We were struck by the large number of customers who were failing to realize the benefits of the cloud. Running one of the largest public clouds, Microsoft Azure, we know what it takes to build and run a cloud, and we wanted to see how to take these learnings, be it architectural, design, operations, or technology and help you benefit from it. We have learned a lot along the way, and want to pass on all the knowledge we have gathered onto you.  In essence, CPS is the culmination of this experience. With Dell as our partner, we are thrilled to bring an Azure-consistent cloud-in-a-box to your datacenter.

CPS – A customer-focused journey to solution delivery

As we set out to build CPS, we engaged many of our Enterprise and Service Provider customers.  What we found to be common among them was the challenge of taking hardware and software components and building them into a system that yielded robust cloud services.  On this path too many customers were failing because of the challenges of complex system definition, hardware integration and software deployment & configuration.  In short, too many cloud computing projects could not fulfil the anticipated promise due to cost and complexity.

In building CPS, we decided to attack that problem armed with the experience of building and operating our Azure datacenters.  First, we embarked on a system design that harvested the principles of our Azure architecture and composed a stamp-architecture that is appropriate to run in customer datacenters. 

A core element of this design is the work we put into failure mode analysis.  One constant that we recognize when operating at scale is that failures will happen.  And yet business-critical services cannot be impacted by these failures.  The CPS system architecture includes redundancy in the physical infrastructure as well as intelligence in the software that makes the solution resilient to failures.

Designing a resilient system requires a careful balance between availability and the cost of service delivery.  As you design systems that are capable of surviving failures, it is easy to let costs balloon by over-engineering redundancy.  Working closely with Dell, we took decisions that allowed us to strike a careful balance between the cost of the infrastructure, and productivity of the system.  This “sweet spot” was achieved by leveraging proven hardware components together with Microsoft’s software-defined datacenter technologies. 

The last challenge that we took on was to minimize complexity.  We heard from many of you that perhaps the most difficult part of complex system design is the challenges around integration.  In CPS we worked directly with Dell and component manufacturers to ensure that drivers, firmware, software and configurations came together in a reliable way.  We have spent month’s operating and putting systems through some of the most rigorous testing that our engineers can produce. 

Now as we bring CPS to market, we have the confidence to not only stand behind our solution, but to proudly stand in front of it.  In CPS, we are offering a unified support model: Microsoft.  When customers encounter issues in a CPS environment, there is one number to call and that is ours. Of course if the issue lies in hardware, we will work with Dell to resolve it, but you as a customer are not burdened with figuring out who the responsible party is to resolve your problem.

CPS – An integrated hardware and software cloud solution

CPS is a pre-integrated, pre-deployed, Microsoft validated solution built on Dell hardware, Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Azure Pack. It combines the efficiency and agility of cloud computing, along with the increased control and customization achieved in virtualized, multi-tenant environments. CPS scales from a single rack to up to four racks and is optimized for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS for Windows and Linux) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) style deployments.

Let’s take a closer look at CPS


At the hardware layer, a customer can deploy CPS in increments from one to four racks. Each rack has

  • 512 cores across 32 servers (each with a dual socket Intel Ivy Bridge, E5-2650v2 CPU)
  • 8 TB of RAM with 256 GB per server
  • 282 TB of usable storage
  • 1360 Gb/s of internal rack connectivity
  • 560 Gb/s of inter-rack connectivity
  • Up to 60 Gb/s connectivity to the external world

A single rack can support up to 2000 VM’s (2 vCPU, 1.75 GB RAM, and 50 GB disk). You can scale up to 8000 VM’s using a full stamp with four of these racks. Of course customers have the flexibility of choosing their VM dimensions, as we have seen with the private preview deployments with CPS.

CPS uses software components that customers are familiar with (Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Azure Pack), so there is no retooling needed to operate CPS. It comes with integrated anti-virus, fabric based backup for all VM’s, disaster recovery, orchestrated patching, monitoring, an Azure-consistent self-service portal (Windows Azure Pack) for tenants, REST-based API for programmatic interaction and automation using PowerShell. CPS also provides PaaS services such as “Websites” and Database-as-a-service. There are no additional components to buy to make it a complete cloud solution.

There is a lot we want to share about CPS and this is just the start. We will be at TechEd, Europe in Barcelona, Spain (Oct 28 – 31) where we will have many sessions on CPS. In particular we have an overview session (CDP-B232) and an Architectural Deep Dive (CDP-B341) that would be a great way to get an understanding of what CPS is and how it works. You can find out more about CPS here. See you in Barcelona!

CPS Engineering Team