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Here comes the "Windows Cloud"

October 01, 2008

Amazon and Microsoft are about to be partners - and competitors.

Last night, Amazon's Werner Vogels announced that later this fall developers and companies will be able to run Microsoft Windows Server and SQL Server on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which up to now has been limited to Linux or other Unix-based systems. Given the broad popularity of the Microsoft operating system, the move promises to considerably expand the usefulness of the EC2 utility-computing system. According to Amazon:

Amazon EC2 running Windows Server or SQL Server provides an ideal environment for deploying ASP.NET web sites, high performance computing clusters, media transcoding solutions, and many other Windows-based applications. By choosing Amazon EC2 as the deployment environment for your Windows-based applications, you will be able to take advantage of Amazon’s proven scalability and reliability, as well as the cost-effective, pay-as-you-go pricing model offered by Amazon Web Services.

As Vogels notes, it will also become possible to run virtual Windows desktops from Amazon's cloud.

Details about pricing have yet to be released. The big question, as Alan Williams notes, is this: Will Microsoft adopt a true utility pricing model for virtual computers running Windows, allowing Amazon to roll the operating system licensing cost into its hourly fee, or will the Windows licenses have to continue to be purchased separately? If it's the former, Microsoft will have made a significant step forward into the utility world.

But an even bigger step into the cloud appears imminent. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced in London today that the company will unveil its own "cloud operating system" at its big developer conference at the end of this month. According to The Register, Ballmer said: "We need a new operating system designed for the cloud and we will introduce one in about four weeks, we’ll even have a name to give you by then. But let’s just call it for the purposes of today ‘Windows Cloud.'" Ballmer also said: "The last thing we want is for somebody else to obsolete us; if we’re gonna get obsoleted, we better do it to ourselves." Even as it links up with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft is preparing to muscle onto its turf.


Wow. This is terrific news, for me at least. I am a little wary about trusting my apps to a cloud, however. I've been hanging out at entrecard lately, for example, and I get huge wait times where its waiting, waiting, waiting for amazonws.com to respond. I would hate to move over to the cloud and find out its cloudy.

Posted by: Ted Murphy [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 1, 2008 10:58 AM

"Given the broad popularity of the Microsoft operating system"

MSFT is popular as a desktop PC. not near as much on the server side. Except for the ASP crowd , there is not much of an audience for this.

Posted by: niraj j [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 1, 2008 11:00 AM

Trust my data in M$s hands? Balmer (...) with MY data??? I'll never do that, not in a million years...

Google will crush them, and we'll all be cheering!


Posted by: alex [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 1, 2008 11:59 AM

Great post about a fascinating competitive dogfight.

Amazon has made a masterful stroke here, both in terms of satisfying users and in terms of creating a set of no-win alternatives for Microsoft:

- Do we adopt cloud computing pricing on Windows and let Amazon continue into our turf unabated, or do we penalize Windows there and miss out on Amazon's great momentum in the Cloud?

- Do we make our Cloud OS Windows-only, and leave Amazon the superior platform because its open, or must we support Linux and thereby endorse it?

More on my blog:


Posted by: BobWarfield [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 1, 2008 01:19 PM

This is great. There's a HUGE audience for this. Lots of firms use Linux for web hosting, with Windows for the back-office.

I don't think this is Amazon boxing in M$. The "franchise model" of selling s/ware through hosting (please just call it hosting) has worked well for CPanel and Plesk. It should work well for M$. Regardless of what Balmer dreams, M$ is a s/ware firm, not a hosting company, and I don't think they'd benefit from becoming one. Per hour licensing done right would eliminate a lot of "sticker shock" for SQL Server.

@alex: Windows auto-update: if you use any M$ OS you already do trust them. This just gives you the option to share with Amazon too :-)

(IIRC EC2 is Xen-based, which is not the snappiest VM platform for Windows. I wonder what performance will be like...)

Posted by: Thomas [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 1, 2008 04:33 PM

It is amazing to watch two companies beating Microsoft to the punch in the same day by delivery Cloud Computing for Windows Server. Amazon's cloud announcement stole the thunder, but Information Week reported earlier today that a little know start up, 3tera, http://www.3tera.com, is the first cloud solution vendor to offer a production version Windows Server as a cloud solution, while EC2 is still in beta.

3tera and Amazon take very different approaches to deliver Cloud Computing. Amazon uses their existing hardware in their east coast datacenter with a web services model. To scale, users create multiple instances of an application and run them in parallel when they need more computing power.

3tera's AppLogic solution allows customers to provision and manage grids from a couple of machines to several thousand to enable scaling. 3tera's approach aims to offer options that appeal to both the start-up and the Enterprise such as multiple datacenters in 4 continents and the ability to choose between a hosted solution or a private cloud.

It is amazing to watch the competition building within the cloud even as the cloud tries to change tradition datacenter models. Will Amazon have to react to the 3tera announcement by offering Service Level Agreements for customers or extend beyond the single datacenter in order to provide disaster recovery solutions?

Posted by: Jonah Stein [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 1, 2008 07:40 PM

Mr. Ballmer said: "We need a new operating system for the cloud .. and for now we will call it Windows Cloud".

Technically speaking: What is an operating system for the cloud? Who need such? Horizontal architecture scaling technique, along with various techniques to achieve reliability and scalability has been around on the web for years. What does Mr. Ballmer really mean by "new operating system for the cloud"?

Understanding its technical irrelevance, "such gimmick" perhaps need to be created by Microsoft to allow Microsoft to define a new "licensing model" for such "new operating system". This way, the market will perceive this "windows" as "Windows cloud", hence the pricing & licensing model that Windows "cloud" introduce or provide, won't affect the pricing & licensing structure that "traditional" Windows provide.

Could this be the case?

Technically speaking, the web seem doesn't need a new operating system for it. Other than a couple of HTML, programming language/script, web API and cloud infrastructure services that the web developer need today -- and have available, who really need "OS that is specifically designed for the web?"

We now can do cloud computing on amazon. We can do scripting using many tools and language. We can implement messaging and horizontal architecture to enable scalability. In the future we might have OpenID for identity, we have facebook API, Google API, and many more things in the picture. Combined together, these are "cloud computing infrastructure", or "cloud computing operating system" that we all already have access to.

So 3 questions remain:

1. Who need new "OS" for the web anyway?

2. What is a new "OS" for the web mean anyway?

3. Is this "new OS for the web" a real technical "thing"?, or is it really is -- actually -- just a "marketing jargon" used to differentiate Windows OS "traditional licensing policy" from the "massive web licensing" scheme?

We will see and understand what this really mean, and what this really is, as the "real" thing being announced by Microsoft shortly -- around the end of this month.

Posted by: Arvino [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2008 12:52 AM

Could M$ be trying to apply adopt, extend and extinghish to the cloud? They dominate the access to the cloud through the desktop; can they dominate the cloud by offering the desktop through the cloud? Unfortunately to operate in the cloud they HAVE to comply with the open standards. Can the leopard changes its spots?

Posted by: Linuxguru1968 [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 7, 2008 09:24 PM

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