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October 3, 2008

Putting Windows in the Cloud

Derrick Harris

It’s as if we literally cannot go through a week without some breakthough announcements in cloud computing. On Wednesday, that news was that both 3Tera and (drum roll, please) Amazon are bringing Windows support into their cloud offerings. (I know, I know: GoGrid has been offering Windows virtual servers for some time — but Amazon being the cloud poster child and all …)

First, we have 3Tera, whose AppLogic 2.4 solution includes “support for virtual appliances running Microsoft Windows Server incorporated in all infrastructure components necessary to run Web applications including storage, networking and load balancing.” AppLogic already supports Linux, Open Solaris and Solaris 10, and now, says 3Tera, “Users of AppLogic can now utilize the most popular datacenter operating systems in their applications, and even mix and match operating systems within applications as needed.”

Possibly bigger news, however, is that Amazon EC2 developers will soon be able to run Windows instances — Windows Server and SQL Server — in the Amazon cloud. Amazon cites the ability to run Windows as one of its most requested capabilities, and I can vouch for that. I cannot count the number of times I have been at a conference or on a phone call and heard someone — either  a potential user or an analyst — bemoan the absence of Windows support within EC2.

What does Windows support for EC2 mean? Well, it means countless millions of .NET-based Web sites and applications will be able to run better in Amazon’s cloud, and this includes, I presume, Exchange. Aside from testing and development, the overwhelming majority of cloud commentators — if not all of them — understand that non-mission-critical, non-business-differentiating applications like e-mail will be the first production applications to move into the cloud. If potential adopters have been using Amazon as a measuring stick for whether the cloud is ready for their needs, including Windows might be a big step in the right direction.

But I’m no dummy (or so I like to think), so I’m not ready to declare this the day cloud computing became viable. Amazon still has a long way to go toward making EC2 enterprise-friendly, and I’ve heard nothing yet about the premium that will be paid on the Windows images. Microsoft might be serious about getting into the cloud game, but it’s not about to let potential profit fall by the wayside. When this all becomes a reality and we know how the pricing looks, etc., it’ll be a little easier to make a judgment.

All I can say for now is: Curse these providers for not giving me a break from cloud computing. I really need one — I just know there is more to the on-demand ecosystem — but, well, I’m a hypocrite. I’m as sick and tired of cloud hype as the nexy guy, but as long it’s the next big thing, I’ll be here talking about it. And in this case, it’s one more step toward being the next thing. Period.

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