Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Jyoti Bansal, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud

@CloudExpo: 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
“We're a global managed hosting provider. Our core customer set is a U.S.-based customer that is looking to go global,” explained Adam Rogers, Managing Director at ANEXIA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, director/senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
910Telecom exhibited at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which took place at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, in November 2016. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and exchanges.
As software becomes more and more complex, we, as software developers, have been splitting up our code into smaller and smaller components. This is also true for the environment in which we run our code: going from bare metal, to VMs to the modern-day Cloud Native world of containers, schedulers and micro services. While we have figured out how to run containerized applications in the cloud using schedulers, we've yet to come up with a good solution to bridge the gap between getting your contain...
Niagara Networks exhibited at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which took place at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, in November 2016. Niagara Networks offers the highest port-density systems, and the most complete Next-Generation Network Visibility systems including Network Packet Brokers, Bypass Switches, and Network TAPs.
Zerto exhibited at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which took place at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, in June 2016. Zerto is committed to keeping enterprise and cloud IT running 24/7 by providing innovative, simple, reliable and scalable business continuity software solutions. Through the Zerto Cloud Continuity Platform™, organizations can seamlessly move and protect virtualized workloads between public, private and hybrid clouds. The company’s flagship product, Zerto Virtual...
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, looked at differ...
Without a clear strategy for cost control and an architecture designed with cloud services in mind, costs and operational performance can quickly get out of control. To avoid multiple architectural redesigns requires extensive thought and planning. Boundary (now part of BMC) launched a new public-facing multi-tenant high resolution monitoring service on Amazon AWS two years ago, facing challenges and learning best practices in the early days of the new service. In his session at 19th Cloud Exp...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
"Plutora provides release and testing environment capabilities to the enterprise," explained Dalibor Siroky, Director and Co-founder of Plutora, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Security, data privacy, reliability and regulatory compliance are critical factors when evaluating whether to move business applications from in-house client hosted environments to a cloud platform. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Vandana Viswanathan, Associate Director at Cognizant, In this session, will provide an orientation to the five stages required to implement a cloud hosted solution validation strategy.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, and 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place in November in Silicon Valley, California.
The security needs of IoT environments require a strong, proven approach to maintain security, trust and privacy in their ecosystem. Assurance and protection of device identity, secure data encryption and authentication are the key security challenges organizations are trying to address when integrating IoT devices. This holds true for IoT applications in a wide range of industries, for example, healthcare, consumer devices, and manufacturing. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lancen LaChance, vic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that delaPlex will exhibit at SYS-CON's @CloudExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. delaPlex pioneered Software Development as a Service (SDaaS), which provides scalable resources to build, test, and deploy software. It’s a fast and more reliable way to develop a new product or expand your in-house team.
Wooed by the promise of faster innovation, lower TCO, and greater agility, businesses of every shape and size have embraced the cloud at every layer of the IT stack – from apps to file sharing to infrastructure. The typical organization currently uses more than a dozen sanctioned cloud apps and will shift more than half of all workloads to the cloud by 2018. Such cloud investments have delivered measurable benefits. But they’ve also resulted in some unintended side-effects: complexity and risk. ...
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smart...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).