Well, maybe everybody is saying “cloud” these days, but my first impression of Microsoft Windows Server 8 (not the final name) is that Microsoft has been listening very closely to what customers want from an OS that can support both public and private enterprise cloud implementations. And most importantly, the things that they have built into WS8 for “clouds” also look like they make life easier for plain old enterprise IT.

Microsoft appears to have focused its efforts on several key themes, all of which benefit legacy IT architectures as well as emerging clouds:

  • Management, migration and recovery of VMs in a multi-system domain – Major improvements in Hyper-V and management capabilities mean that I&O groups can easily build multi-system clusters of WS8 servers, and easily migrate VMs across system boundaries. Muplitle systems can be clustered with Fibre Channel, making it easier to implement high-performance clusters.
  • Multi-tenancy – A host of features, primarily around management and role-based delegation that make it easier and more secure to implement multi-tenant VM clouds.
  • Recovery and resiliency – Microsoft claims that they can failover VMs from one machine to another in 25 seconds, a very impressive number indeed. While vendor performance claims are always like EPA mileage – you are guaranteed never to exceed this number – this is an impressive claim and a major capability, with major implications for HA architecture in any data center.

In addition to these base features, WS8 will also add a number of features that are oriented toward the cloud to cloud interface but will also benefit conventional IT architectures such as:

  • Asynchronous replication of the VHD files
  • Multi-cluster VHD synchronization
  • Differential copies of VMs to conserve storage space, along with major improvements in storage management, including increased ability to scale file systems on the fly.
  • Integrated multi-system patching.
  • Improved scripting and automation.
  • Deeply embedded capabilities to scan and classify data for security assessment and policy-based actions. The OS will come with a library of common patterns (phone numbers, social security numbers, addresses, etc), and will have a regular expression tool to add custom patterns.

The list of detailed features goes on and on, far too many to itemize here, but the underlying pattern is clear – Microsoft has really listened to customers over the last four years, and the result is an OS platform that should offer major benefits to both conventional data centers as well as providing a foundation for a transition to cloud-based architecture. Microsoft has grasped the fundamental truth about the transition to cloud – that it will be a gradual migration, and clouds and legacy IT will have to co-exist and interoperate for a long time, probably forever.

I’m sure there will be bugs, required SPs, and the occasional horror story, but this looks like a radical refactoring of OS capabilities and a major jump in capabilities for just about any I&O group.

I’m not generally this bullish on new products, particularly in advance of really seeing them in customer hands with some time under their belts, but this feels very good. My net take – a major upgrade and a must evaluate for not only current Windows Server users but for anyone needing a scalable and manageable platform for cloud development.