In conjunction with the company's Worldwide Partners Conference (WPC) this week in Toronto, Microsoft has released a preview set of technologies that can be installed on Windows Server that will allow organisations to set up virtual machines and Web hosting services that can then be offered as services, either internally or externally.
Microsoft initially developed all of the technologies to run its own Windows Azure cloud service, though it did not specify if this set of technologies would be fully interchangeable with Microsoft's own Azure service.
The pre-release preview of the technologies, called a Community Technology Preview (CTP), offers three sets of services that can be used by multiple parties. One is for hosting websites and Web applications. Another is for offering virtual machines, of either the Linux or Microsoft variety. The third set of services provides consumers with their own self-service portals.
On Monday, Microsoft announced that it would soon release Windows Server 2012, the next-generation Windows operating system for servers. Server manufacturers will get the OS in August and it will be generally available in September. During his keynote at WPC, Satya Nadella, who is president of Redmond's server and tools business, touted the release, along with these Azure-based technologies, as an alternative to VMware's cloud software.
The package requires at least four virtual machines running either Windows Server 2012, which will be available by September, or Windows Server 2008 R2. It requires System Center 2012 SP1, currently available only as a CTP. It also requires the updated .NET Framework, both versions 3.5 and 4. And it requires both SQL Server 2008 and MySQL 5.1.
There seems to be interest around offering Windows Server as a cloud service. Monday, hosting provider Rackspace announced that it would start offering Windows Server 2012 as a virtual machine service in the cloud sometime in the next few months.
Microsoft did not provide a date when this software would be released for full production duty.
To help in its competition with VMware, Microsoft also announced that it will start offering its partners tools and training to help their customers move from VMware to Windows-based clouds.