Microsoft Expands Enterprise Cloud Offerings, Offers Private Cloud Solutions

At its TechEd Europe 2010 conference in Berlin this week, Microsoft announced a host of offerings aimed at expanding the Platform as a Service (PaaS) capabilities of the Windows Azure platform. More specifically, it provided a way for those customers not willing or able to partake in public cloud services to enjoy many of the benefits through an expansion of its so-called private cloud offerings.

"Many of our customers have told us they want the benefits of cloud-computing—fast deployment, increased agility, lower costs—but with tight control over things like physical infrastructure and security policies," Microsoft Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson said. "Our new private cloud offerings fulfill that need at the infrastructure level while providing a clear migration path to cloud services at the platform level."

Microsoft is positioning its private cloud solutions, now collectively known as Hyper-V Cloud, as a way for customers to enjoy many of the advantages of true, externally hosted cloud services without the concern of hosting important private data offsite. Combined with the company's unique hybrid deployment models—where customers are able to host parts of their corporate infrastructure in-house, or on-premise, and other parts up in the cloud—Microsoft feels that it now offers the most comprehensive and compelling solutions.

To get there, it's partnering with industry heavyweights such as Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM, and NEC to deliver a host of predefined and validated private cloud solutions that deliver specific compute, storage, networking resources, virtualization, and management software solutions. The program, called the Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track program, combines Windows Server 2008 R2, Hyper-V virtualization, and Microsoft System Center management technologies (including System Center Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, Service Manager, and Virtual Machine Manager R2 Self-Service Portal), along with specific hardware and vendor-provided enhancements.

As part of the broader Hyper-V Cloud announcement, Microsoft also revealed an extensive partner program, new deployment guides, and a set of Hyper-V Cloud Accelerate services that will help customers and partners fund assessments, proofs of concept, and production deployments. You can find out more about the Hyper-V Cloud initiative at Microsoft's Private Cloud website.

This week's announcements are only the latest in a long string of cloud-related advances Microsoft has announced in recent weeks. In October, the software giant announced that it was consolidating its productivity cloud services, including hosted versions of Exchange Server and SharePoint, under the new Office 365 brand. And at the Professional Developers Conference 2010 (PDC10) in late October, the company unveiled new features and capabilities in Azure aimed at helping customers more easily migrate on-premises capabilities to the cloud. Also, Microsoft had previously revealed plans for another private cloud offering, Windows Azure Appliance, which isn't really an appliance per se and appears to be a way to split Azure services and management between hosted and on-premise locations; there was no new news about this solution at TechEd Europe 2010 this week to my  knowledge, however.

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