Microsoft and Private Clouds

Private clouds have been the subject of many of my recent posts for many reasons. There is a large interest in this area of cloud computing and there is always much to report on, whether new products from dedicated private cloud organisations such as Eucalyptus, or the computing giants such as Oracle. Today, my focus is on Microsoft and their private cloud offering. Whilst most people who follow cloud computing will be aware of Microsoft’s public cloud offerings with Software as a Service (SaaS) like Office365 and the Platform as a Service (PaaS) Azure, not so many are aware of their private cloud offering.

Microsoft’s private cloud offering is built on using Hyper-V, Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft System Centre. These tools which many organisations are using, allow private clouds to be built that enable the pooling of key infrastructure resources–compute storage and networking and then dynamically allocated to where they are needed or can be best utilised. Examples include the autoscaling of Exchange server both up and down as its load varies over time. The same applies to other products such as SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics. This has large implications for IT costs as well as productivity. Using IT resources will become the norm over the next couple of years for the majority of organisations–the benefits, both business and technical are so compelling. Microsoft are totally focusing their next generation of server side products on this concept and Windows Server 8 or Windows Server 2012 as it is officially to be called is being advertised as a “Cloud Optimised operating system.” What we are seeing here is that Microsoft is moving beyond virtualisation and offering a true private cloud solution with their core product suite.

It is interesting to consider some of the differences in the way Microsoft license their technology, compared with say VMWare, who have similar offerings through their  vCloud and cCentre products. Microsoft private cloud solutions are licensed on a per processor bases, allowing many virtual machines to be run on a processor with a single license. VMWare in contrast, license per virtual machine. This can make a big difference on the costs of running a private cloud, from the hardware selected to the infrastructure software required. This makes calculating the costs and choosing a vendor a far from simple process.

There have been some interesting case studies published by Microsoft of clients who have benefited through adopting their private cloud technologies. One example is Apartments.com, an online apartment search service who needed a more dynamic IT infrastructure to deliver faster service to its 6 million site visitors each month. With Microsoft’s private cloud, the company realized 50 percent faster server provisioning for new services and 75 percent lower licensing costs compared to their previous systems. Another example is the Walsh Group, a construction firm who switched to a Microsoft private cloud to automate delivery of virtualized servers and applications for 5,000 employees. As well as the IT benefits they were also able to reduce hardware and energy costs by 20 percent.

In summary, private clouds are rapidly becoming mainstream IT technology as they are built into core infrastructure products. Many end users will not be aware they are using cloud computing other than they should have more performant systems and the latest software updates automatically installed. For those responsible for implementing a private cloud for their organisations, Learning Tree have  developed  a 4-day hands-on course that details how to implement a private cloud. Take a look at the details, it provides a vendor independent, in-depth coverage of all that is needed to successfully implement a private cloud.

Chris Czarnecki

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