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Microsoft is dreaming in the clouds, when it comes to its new OS

Microsoft and free aren't words that you expect together in a sentence.  While the prolific operating system maker has been generous in offering discounted licenses to students and to developing nations, it has always made sure it got its fair slice.

Well for a limited time, developers will get to use and test a unique new OS from Microsoft -- Windows Azure -- entirely for free.  The new OS marks the release of Microsoft's long awaited cloud computing operating system.

For those in the dark about cloud computing, you're not alone -- the abstract concept is a new one and very challenging to developers.  In basic principle, it’s the concept of offloading tasks from workstations to cloud clusters -- high powered groups of servers.  This setup leverages modern high-speed internet connections to deliver data storage, applications hosting and more.

Cloud computing is tremendously popular, as it is widely viewed as the future of web hosting.  One key reason for this is that cloud computing allows applications to easily scale to match rising or falling demand, without shifting local hardware.  In order to deliver increasingly rich applications over an internet interface, moving to a cloud computing architecture becomes increasingly necessary.  However, until now cloud computing lacked a single iconic operating system specially designed for it.

That has all changed with the release of Microsoft's Azure.  The new OS is a community preview, available free to any developers.  This is a slight departure from Microsoft's RM/Beta/Alpha sequence typical to many of its operating systems, though it has done community previews of other releases before. 

"How long until the OS hits the market," is one question many will ask.  Microsoft's Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie was on hand to answer questions about the new OS, and he fielded this one.  He stated, "Well, when we finally determine that it achieves the objectives from a completeness perspective and a reliability perspective that our customers would expect of us, then we'll go commercial. And when it does, it will be profitable from birth because we're going to price it to be that way."

While Microsoft's OS is similar, according to Mr. Ozzie, to Amazon's EC2 web service in some respects, it is overall rather unique.  Some users will be confused, he says, to restart their computers only to find their hard drives empty.  Despite the .NET foundation, developers will have to adapt to the new storage system and adapt to the new error handling system.

Mr. Ozzie says that Microsoft's growing interest in data centers and serving is the key to the company's success.  He says, "It's a business that we will be in probably as long as there will be a Microsoft. ... Cloud computing is ultimately going to be 'do you trust this provider to have more to lose than I have to lose as a company if they mess me up?' And Microsoft has both the capacity to invest and the willingness to be in that end of a business, and give that kind of a trust assurance to developers and enterprises."

While many outside the development community will  meet the news of this new Microsoft OS with a bit of confusion as it’s not something they can easily experience, the bottom line is that this OS will help drive a new generation of feature-rich websites.  And while cloud computing from an architecture standpoint might be perplexing to some, being able to use rich applications like word processing online, with free storage, would be easy to understand, and a highly desired development.

As for Mr. Ozzie, he firmly believes the new OS represents the future of Windows, and is perhaps more critical than even Windows 7.  He says that in 20 years, cloud computers will be household items and the once foreign concept will have been embraced, much as the personal computer was two decades ago.  Says Mr. Ozzie, "It's a new kind of computer that 20 years from now we'll wonder how we did without."

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By omnicronx on 10/29/2008 10:59:01 AM , Rating: 2
There is a vast difference, I really don't think the emphasis here is on web based applications, there are already many ways to do this.

From my perspective, this has a lot more to do with doing away with powerful desktops to run todays intensive applications, and replace them with server side programs, in which little power is needed by the desktop. Having the ability to run programs like autocad and photoshop without needed tons of resources on the desktop would be a great advancement in computing.

Current desktops are a waste of power and space for the most part. Even gaming could eventually take this approach, I remember there is already a program that lets you stream your game over VNC, and requires much less power on the server as it is not actually using any resources to output the video.

By Procurion on 10/29/2008 11:26:39 AM , Rating: 2
What happens when a node fails? What happens when hackers go postal with denial of service attacks? How much work will your employees accomplish when a key part of the cloud is down? What happens when there are weather events or even construction and your internet service is down? Shutter the business?

The entire concept is BS. Cloud computing is utopia and free? It is called a "revenue stream". A business model to get recurring payments from anyone who wants to use a computer. It is not utopia-rather the opposite. It is the claw of the predator that is trying to end your freedom :)

By omnicronx on 10/29/2008 11:40:32 AM , Rating: 5
What happens when a node fails?
You would have a backup, just as nobody in their right mind would host a large amount of users and only have one server.
What happens when hackers go postal with denial of service attacks?
Its internal, you don't give external incoming access to a storage server, why would you do this in this situation. i.e you can't attack what you can't see.
How much work will your employees accomplish when a key part of the cloud is down?
Once again, most schools and corporate institutions use network drives for hosting important files. Once again, a simple backup server is an easy solution, and since you don't need to buy expensive workstations is still a far cheaper solution, which is pretty much where MS is trying to take this.
What happens when there are weather events or even construction and your internet service is down?
What does the internet service have to do with anything, this would be internal, you don't even need to have internet access for this to be implemented.

You obviously do not have a grasp with the focus of cloud computing. A server with four backups would still be a cheaper solution than constantly buying and upgrading all of your workstations. The benefits would be seen within a short period, and would not take years to make back your money. Cloud computing is the future, Microsoft see this, Google sees this, and much of the business community sees this. And I really don't see how there would be any reoccurring payments, it would be no different than the license system Microsoft currently employs.

P.S thanks for not reading my post above and replying to it. Had you read it you would have seen the big title which reads, 'Cloud computer != WEB BASED COMPUTING!'

By rdeegvainl on 10/29/2008 11:44:06 AM , Rating: 1
Finally, someone who understands.

By Procurion on 10/29/2008 1:15:29 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, I see the future-it is you who do not understand- I was programming on ticker tape originally, my friend. Reference the following wikipedia entry which references current views and plans-the list of which is at the bottom of the page. "Cloud computing is Internet-based ("cloud") development and use of computer technology ("computing"). The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet (based on how it is depicted in computer network diagrams) and is an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it conceals.[1] It is a style of computing in which IT-related capabilities are provided “as a service”,[2] allowing users to access technology-enabled services from the Internet ("in the cloud")[3] without knowledge of, expertise with, or control over the technology infrastructure that supports them.[4] According to a 2008 paper published by IEEE Internet Computing "Cloud Computing is a paradigm in which information is permanently stored in servers on the Internet and cached temporarily on clients that include desktops, entertainment centers, table computers, notebooks, wall computers, handhelds, sensors, monitors, etc."[5]" from which is very clear. If you insist on arguing the point I will reference you Microsofts' own paper on the subject.

By kalak on 10/30/2008 8:55:44 AM , Rating: 3
You obviously do not have a grasp with the focus of cloud computing. A server with four backups would still be a cheaper solution than constantly buying and upgrading all of your workstations

Hmmmm... So, Cloud Computer = Mainframe
We are walking back to the IBM era....

By Smilin on 10/31/2008 2:29:43 PM , Rating: 2
You don't get it. You're talking about vulnerabilities of current systems rather than cloud.

If a node fails there are many others that will continue running. If a node starts to get overloaded (say you're amazon and it's christmas) then more are brought online in SECONDS to handle the load.

DOS attack? I assume you mean DDOS attack. If your running an ecommerce site then you are always susceptible to this. It's going to be a lot harder to take down a microsoft data center than most typical companies.

What if you're not running ecommerce? What if you're running line of business apps? It's kinda hard to DDOS attack from foreign addresses that are not allowed on the system to begin with. It takes a router just a couple instructions of processing to drop such packets.

You go ahead and keep thinking that cloud computing is BS. You're probably still grappling with the idea of the Intarwebs not being just a fad. "claw of the predator that is trying to end your freedom?" HAHA go sit in a corner and rock back and forth with your tinfoil hat.

By Spectator on 10/30/2008 4:16:12 AM , Rating: 2
I dont mind the concept. but they are having developers test it?

Dev's i know use at least 2 displays. I use 1600x1200 X 2.

So what sort of net connection would you need to shunt even. 3200x1200x4x(60? fps)

As for Bandwidth caps, logically I assume MS would make deals with ISP's for that particular site.

By berkes on 10/31/2008 1:11:33 PM , Rating: 2
Its not remote desktop , its just data from the applications passing on your network. Display sizes dont matter

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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