Designing Windows Server in the cloud-first world

This post was authored by Jeffrey Snover, Microsoft Technical Fellow

“There is an unlimited demand for computing.”  That is what Buck Rodgers said in his great 1988 book The IBM Way. Buck connected the dots between computing and growing a business. While Buck had the right idea, the reality is that this gets held back by friction.  In the past, friction took the form of cost – servers were expensive.  But since then, servers have grown in capacity and shrunk in cost to the point where today they are downright cheap.  Virtual servers are even cheaper and with cloud servers, you only pay when you use them.  However, demand for computing is still being held back by friction.  Today that friction is the difficulty of developing and deploying applications with speed, scale, and security.

A lot of people thought the world had fundamentally changed 5 to 10 years ago as companies embraced virtualization. IT successfully used virtualization to deliver more resources at a lower cost but did so without changing the traditional datacenter processes and mindset. With virtualization, IT saved money on computing, but it didn’t transform computing into something that grew the business. At a conference, a customer said it took their IT department 6 weeks to provision a virtual machine. Another customer chimed in saying that it took his IT months. Costs are no longer the gating issue, outmoded systems architectures and IT processes are holding business back.

Then the cloud changed everything.

The cloud provided a different model for computing. Over the past few years I’ve seen a growing disturbing pattern of business groups and developers going around IT and using the cloud to deliver new applications. This is so common that it has a name: Shadow IT. Invariably these efforts start after IT tells the developers in a business group that they cannot give them the capabilities they need in the required timeframe. That just won’t do in today’s competitive environment, because the companies that respond to customer needs first gain a substantial competitive advantage. Competitive value depends on deploying new applications faster, and adding features to existing applications almost on demand; speed is the new currency. The problem with Shadow IT is that it cuts out the experts in how to run things in a safe, secure way that adheres to the company’s policies and governmental regulations. Also, there are many scenarios where you will need/want to continue running new applications in your datacenter, taking advantage of what you have today.

My goal is to help you reduce Shadow IT by bringing the cloud to you.

Cloud isn’t a place, it’s a model. It’s a way of building and running infrastructure that prioritizes speed and empowering developers to do their best work. To move forward in the cloud-first world, you need to be able to get that model running in your own datacenter. I once heard the saying, “A wise man learns from the lessons of others, a fool learns from his own”. That makes a lot of sense, so I’m learning from the lessons Mark Russinovich and the Azure team learned running one of the largest public clouds in the world.  I’m incorporating those lessons into Windows Server 2016 and bringing our public cloud investments to you. 

You hear a lot about software-defined datacenter and the elimination of silos within the infrastructure. There’s a reason for that. “Software-defined” isn’t just about increasing efficiency and reducing cost. They accomplish that. But in a world where you need to increase speed, the first and most important step is creating an infrastructure layer that mirrors the proven patterns and practices of public clouds. Of course infrastructure has to be automated and standardized, but most importantly it has to be flexible enough to accommodate every workload you can throw at it. That is what allows IT to create and run a drama-free cloud model which provides developers and business groups the speed and agility they need while assuring that applications are deployed in a safe, secure, compliant way. With Windows Server 2016, we’re bringing you new features to make the software-defined datacenter a reality. You can learn more about what we’re doing for storage, networking and security in these blog posts from our engineering teams:

Moving forward in the cloud world with software-defined storage

Four datacenter challenges and how Windows Server 2016 software-defined networking can help

Protecting your datacenter and cloud: November update

Azure enables both Windows and Linux applications with a rich set of capabilities and services available through REST APIs.  Windows Server 2016 is specifically architected to be a great platform for cloud-native applications. This release establishes the architectural foundation for the next 20 years of Windows Server and application development with capabilities like Nano Server, Containers, and Desired State Configuration. These give you the tools for rapid iteration and lighter weight DevOps.  Write the app once, and deploy it anywhere – your datacenter, a hoster datacenter or the public cloud. You can hear more about the application platform capabilities in Windows Server in my webcast series:

Tell Me About IT with Jeffrey Snover

I’m excited about the new capabilities coming in Windows Server 2016, and how those capabilities are going to add up to reduced friction for IT. By taking the learnings from the cloud, we’re bringing you an operating system that enables you to grow your business with speed, scale and security. To find out more about the next version of the operating system, you can download Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 4 or get walkthroughs in our Experience Guides.