One of the limiting factors for Windows Azure--Microsoft's operating system for the cloud--is that it only runs in Microsoft's data centers.
Some have wondered why Microsoft doesn't just package it up and offer it as something that businesses or hosters can run in their own data centers.
Server and Tools boss Bob Muglia said in an interview Tuesday that Windows Server will start to take on attributes of Azure, but said there are good reasons why Azure doesn't make sense as a standalone product.
The main reason, Muglia said, is that it isn't built to offer choice. Because Microsoft knows exactly the hardware that will run on Azure, it hasn't built it to support different kinds of hardware or software.
"Windows Azure obviously runs in our own data center," Muglia said. "It is very much restricted. It only needs to run the hardware that we are trying to run on. It's not really appropriate for us to deliver it to customers in that form."
Businesses and hosters will want to offer their own clouds he said, and Microsoft will have tools for them, but Azure isn't their answer. Instead, he said, Windows Server, System Center, and Virtual Machine Manager will get a lot better at operating in a cloud-based environment, while still offering customers lots more choice.
"We will be taking our Virtual Machine Manager product and evolve it over time to much more straightforwardly allow customers to build their own private cloud," Muglia said.
Just because they will remain separate products, though, doesn't mean there won't be overlap between the Azure and Windows Server teams, he said. He noted that Windows Server 2008 R2, the version of Windows 7 for the server, has the ability to boot from a virtual hard drive--a feature developed by the Windows Azure team. Conversely, Azure supports applications written in PHP, a feature that it was able to offer because of work the Windows Server team had done in its last release.
Both Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Azure are set for release in the coming months. Microsoft announced Azure pricing on Tuesday and said it will launch commercially at Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference in November. Meanwhile, Windows Server 2008 R2 is set to be available to volume license customers September 1, the same time as Windows 7.
As for Azure, rival Salesforce.com had some hard words on Tuesday.
"When Microsoft, the company that has the most to lose from cloud computing, enters the market, you know that 'The End of Software' has arrived," Salesforce.com VP of strategy Bruce Francis said in an e-mail. "However, instead of solving the problems of the cost and complexity of client server, Microsoft is just moving those problems to the cloud. We believe that Azure will do for cloud computing what the Zune has done for media players."
But Muglia said that Azure is actually leading the way by allowing companies a way to move to the cloud that doesn't make them create whole new ways of writing software.
"There are many millions of customers today that are running very business critical applications today in the server environment," Muglia said. "We are focused on providing those customers with a smooth easy on-ramp into the cloud where they can leverage their skills and get the scale-out benefits the cloud will provide."