Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Trevor Parsons, Lori MacVittie, Cynthia Dunlop

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, SOA & WOA, .NET

Cloud Expo: Article

Understanding Windows Azure

Part 2: A look inside the Windows Azure datacenters

To understand Windows Azure and the Azure Services Platform, it's necessary to understand how the Microsoft Datacenters work. This article provides an overview of how Microsoft Designs their datacenters and why the Generation 4 Datacenters are so revolutionary.

The Building of Datacenters
Microsoft has been building data centers for a long time. One of the best-known services Microsoft offers is Windows Update, which delivers updates as part of their content delivery network all over the world. But this is not the only product Microsoft's Datacenters are famous for. Other important products are Windows Live Messenger, Hotmail and Windows Live ID. Windows Live Messenger is one of the largest IM software and Hotmail is a frequently used e-mail software. Microsoft authorizes millions of users every day with their Live Services, which is used for Hotmail, Messenger and numerous other services. As you can see, Microsoft has experience building datacenters, but so far hasn't sold products like Windows Azure.

Microsoft's G4 - Generation 4 - Datacenters
Microsoft Research did a great job of improving their datacenters especially how they build them. Microsoft calls this the G4 - Generation 4 Datacenters. They have an industrial design - components are standardized, which lowers the cost and enables the vendors to use templates when designing their servers for Microsoft. Generation 4 Datacenters are basically built-in containers - yes, exactly those containers that we think about when we think about ship containers. There are major advantages to this design. Imagine a datacenter needs to be relocated. Microsoft would only need a couple of trucks and some property and the relocation is almost done. The main advantage to this design is that server vendors such as HP or Dell know exactly what the server racks should look like by adding them in a container. If a Datacenter needs to grow, a Generation 4 Datacenter just adds some additional containers to the existing ones. In addition, Microsoft focused on building standard tools for the cooling system so that local maintainance workers can easily get trained on the systems. It's important to note that the Generation 4 Datacenters aren't only a containerized server room. What Microsoft does with the Generation 4 Datacenters is that they improve the entire live-cycle of how the data centers are built and work. This gives Microsoft some additional benefits such as faster time-to-market and reduced costs.

How Microsoft Datacenters Help Protect the Environment
The term "Green IT" has been around for a while. Microsoft takes this term seriously and tries to minimize the energy consumption of their datacenters. For Microsoft this is not only the possibility of lowering the energy and cooling costs but also to protect our environment. With the Generation 4 Datacenters, Microsoft tries to build the containers with environmentally friendly materials and to take advantage of "ambient cooling." The last one focuses on reducing the amount of energy that needs to be invested to cool the server systems by taking advantage of the datacenter's environment. There are a couple of best practices and articles available on what Microsoft does to build environmentally friendly datacenters. I have included some links at the end of the article.

For an overview of Microsoft's Datacenter Design, this video that explains how Generation 4 Datacenters are built.

Security in Microsoft's Datacenters
Microsoft has a long tradition of building datacenters and operating systems. For decades, Microsoft had to face hackers, viruses and other malware that tried to attack their operating systems. More than other vendors, Microsoft learned from these attacks and started to build a comprehensive approach to security. The document I refer to in this article describes Microsoft's strategy for a safe Cloud Computing environment. Microsoft built an online services security and compliance team that focuses on implementing security in their applications and platforms. Microsoft's key assets for a safe and secure cloud computing environment are the commitment to trustworthy computing and the need for privacy. Microsoft works with a "privacy by default" approach.

To secure its datacenters, Microsoft holds safe datacenters certifications from various organizations such as the ISO/IEC and the British Standards Institute. Furthermore, Microsoft uses the ISO/IEC27001:2005 framework for security. This consists of the four points "Plan, Do, Check, Act."

If you want to go deeper into this Topic, I recommend you read "Securing Microsoft's Cloud Infrastructure."

What Happens with the Virtual Machines?
Figure 1 explains exactly what is going on in a Windows Azure Datacenter. I found this information in David Lemphers's blog, where he gave an overview of what happens in the datacenter. First of all, the servers are started and a maintenance OS is downloaded. This OS now talks to a service called "Fabric Controller." This service is in charge of the overall platform management and the server gets the instruction to create a host partition with a host VM. Once this is done, the server will restart and load the Host VM. The Host VM is configured to run in the datacenter and to communicate with other VMs on a safe basis. The services that we use don't run in the host VM. There's another VM, called the Guest VM, that runs within the host VM (the host VM is booted natively). Since we now have the VMRole, every guest VM holds a diff-store that will store the changes that are made to the virtual machine. The standard image is never modified. Each Host VM can contain several guest VMs.

Resources

•   •   •

This article is part of the Windows Azure Series on Cloud Computing Journal. The Series was originally posted on Codefest.at, the official Blog of the Developer and Platform Group at Microsoft Austria. You can see the original Series here.

More Stories By Mario Meir-Huber

Mario Meir-Huber studied Information Systems at the University of Linz. He worked in the IT sector for some years before founding CodeForce, an IT consulting and services company together with Andreas Aschauer. Since the advent of Cloud Computing, he has been passionate about this technology. He talks about Cloud Computing at various international events and conferences and writes for industry-leading magazines on cloud computing. He is Cloud Computing expert in various independent IT organizations and wrote a book on Cloud Computing covering all topics of the Cloud. You can follow Mario on Twitter (@mario_mh) or read his Blog at http://cloudvane.wordpress.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
Compute virtualization has been transformational, yet security policy implementation and enforcement has lagged behind in agility and automation. There are a number of key considerations when implementing policy in private and hybrid clouds. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Holland Barry, VP of Technology at Catbird, will discuss the impact of this new paradigm and what organizations can do today to safely move to software-defined network and compute architectures, including: How normal ope...
Can we look to the paradigm of cloud computing from a completely different perspective? In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Gundars Kulups, Sales Director at DEAC, will discuss what we can learn from our dining habits when choosing a cloud solution. Gundars Kulups is Sales Director at DEAC, full service data center operator. An IT expert, he specializes in European countries and has worked in the IT industry since 1992. He graduated from Riga Technical University (RTU) in Latvia and com...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SOA Software, an API management leader, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SOA Software is a leading provider of API Management and SOA Governance products that equip business to deliver APIs and SOA together to drive their company to meet its business strategy quickly and effectively. SOA Software’s technology helps businesses to accel...
As cloud gives an opportunity to businesses to buy services externally - how is cloud impacting your customers? In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Fabio Gori, Director of Worldwide Cloud Marketing at Cisco, will provide answers to big questions: Do you see hybrid cloud as where the world is going? What benefits does it bring? And how does Cisco connect all of these clouds? He will also tell us everything about Intercloud and Cisco investment on it.
SYS-CON Events announced today that TMCnet has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Technology Marketing Corporation (TMC) is the world's leading business to business and integrated marketing media company, servicing niche markets within the communications and technology industries.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue bu...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Parasoft will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 27 years, Parasoft has researched and developed software solutions that help organizations deliver defect-free software efficiently. By integrating Development Testing, API/cloud/SOA/composite app testing, and service virtualization, we reduce the time, effort, and cost of delivering secur...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., will show what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Utimaco will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Utimaco is a leading manufacturer of hardware based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. Only Utimaco delivers a general-purpose hardware security module (HSM) as a customiz...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, will describe an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-devic...
Until recently, many organizations required specialized departments to perform mapping and geospatial analysis, and they used Esri on-premise solutions for that work. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Dave Peters, author of the Esri Press book Building a GIS, System Architecture Design Strategies for Managers, will discuss how Esri has successfully included the cloud as a fully integrated SaaS expansion of the ArcGIS mapping platform. Organizations that have incorporated Esri cloud-based appl...
Dyn solutions are at the core of Internet Performance. Through traffic management, message management and performance assurance, Dyn is connecting people through the Internet and ensuring information gets where it needs to go, faster and more reliably than ever before. Founded in 2001 at WPI, Dyn’s global presence services more than four million enterprise, small business and personal customers.
Once the decision has been made to move part or all of a workload to the cloud, a methodology for selecting that workload needs to be established. How do you move to the cloud? What does the discovery, assessment and planning look like? What workloads make sense? Which cloud model makes sense for each workload? What are the considerations for how to select the right cloud model? And how does that fit in with the overall IT tranformation? In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, John Hatem, head of V...
IBM and Tencent Cloud signed a business cooperation memorandum to collaborate on providing public cloud with Software-as-a-Service solutions for industries. Both parties agreed to focus on emerging small and medium enterprises in the smarter cities and smarter healthcare industries as well as other fields. This will enable these industries to utilize mobile, cloud computing and big data tools to transform internal processes and operations, thus achieving cloud transformation in the era of mobili...
SimpleECM is the only platform to offer a powerful combination of enterprise content management (ECM) services, capture solutions, and third-party business services providing simplified integrations and workflow development for solution providers. SimpleECM is opening the market to businesses of all sizes by reinventing the delivery of ECM services. Our APIs make the development of ECM services simple with the use of familiar technologies for a frictionless integration directly into web applicat...
European data center operator DEAC is the largest in the Baltics. The activities are orientated to provide data center services and IT outsourcing on Eurasia and America scale in order to create the primary or backup or additional data center for customer in the EU, to protect its business and, most importantly, reduce costs up to 40% within 3-5 years. DEAC is an IT outsourcing services and solutions company whose highly experienced and qualified employees offer various groups of services and...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, will discuss how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money! Speaker Bio: ...
Samsung VP Jacopo Lenzi, who headed the company's recent SmartThings acquisition under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovaction Center (OIC), answered a few questions we had about the deal. This interview was in conjunction with our interview with SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson. IoT Journal: SmartThings was developed in an open, standards-agnostic platform, and will now be part of Samsung's Open Innovation Center. Can you elaborate on your commitment to keep the platform open? Jacopo Lenzi: S...
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Ashar Baig, Research ...
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, will address the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. How important are public, private, and hybrid cloud to the enterprise? How does one define Big Data? And how is the IoT tying all this together?