Microsoft Opens WPC With Major Cloud Announcements

Microsoft this week is hosting its annual Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Washington D.C., and (as has been the case in recent years) the company is using it as a forum for a surprisingly diverse set of announcements. Key among these was the software giant's continued commitment to transitioning to a cloud computing superpower.

"We are at an inflection point in technology history," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at the show. "For customers, cloud computing creates tremendous value, which translates to massive opportunity for Microsoft and its partners. As in past technology transitions, Microsoft will help partners embrace the industry's transformation to realize their opportunity and continue to be economic drivers for their local community."

Microsoft announced the Windows Azure platform appliance, which it describes as the first "turn-key cloud services platform," and one that is already in use by companies such as Dell, Fujitsu, and HP. The broader Windows Azure platform allows customers to deploy "clouds," or datacenter-based computing resources, on demand, lowering costs during downtime and expanding capabilities  seamlessly during need. These clouds are typically hosted off-site, but those based on the Windows Azure platform appliance can be hosted on-premise, within a corporation's own datacenters. Microsoft calls these private clouds.

Microsoft also announced the Release Candidate (RC) version of the System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self Service Portal 2.0, which will allow customers to dynamically pool, allocate, and manage virtualized resources (based on Hyper-V) to enable Infrastructure-as-a-Service. This is another key piece of the company's private cloud initiative.

Microsoft also announced the public beta release of Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. This update doesn't offer any new functionality on the client, but is a major release on Server, with two major new features, Dynamic Memory for Hyper-V and RemoteFX. Microsoft didn't announce a final release date, but SP1 is now expected to ship in early 2011 after being delayed. (SP1 Beta 1 was originally going to ship at TechEd last month, I'm told.)

There's a lot more going on at WPC this week, of course. I'll have additional reporting starting today on the SuperSite for Windows.

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