Welcome to the Era of the Cloud OS for Infrastructure!

By | June 11, 2012

Satya Nadella

Twenty years ago at Microsoft’s first annual TechEd conference, we gathered to talk about the industry transformation from mainframe to minis to client/server computing. The vehicle for that transformation was the Windows operating system. Today at TechEd, we’re again talking about the industry transformation: the transformation to the cloud. Once again, the Windows operating system is the vehicle for this transformation.

Let me step back. At the most basic level, any operating system has two “jobs”: it needs to manage the underlying hardware, and it needs to provide a platform for applications. The fundamental role of an operating system has not changed, but the scale at which servers are deployed and the type of applications now available or in development are changing massively. On the hardware front, the “unit” of hardware abstraction that a server OS manages has now reached the “datacenter” level. And by that I mean a datacenter ranging from the smallest cluster of a few servers to the very massive footprint of one of Microsoft’s global installations with thousands of servers across multiple geographically distributed datacenters.

In response to the needs of large-scale service providers pushing the limits of technology every day, networking, storage and compute vendors have responded by delivering significant innovations to help increase scale, performance and to help remove bottlenecks. These industries have all driven this transformation in parallel. Now, we must think beyond a server at a time and instead look at the OS as the driver of the datacenter. Today’s datacenter is a scalable, intelligent, automated environment spanning all of the shared resources, and it is the magic of software that brings this all together to orchestrate the three resources of the datacenter: network, storage and compute. In other words, a cloud OS.    

Just as the job of managing hardware has been transformed, the job of running applications has also shifted. We live in an era of many devices, where applications need to span across PCs to phones to tablets with an adaptive backend that can keep it all together. The ways in which we interact with those applications – and by that I mean both through touch and swipe and click AND through “likes”, “follows” and “shares” – pushes us forward. And the huge amounts of data that feed and enable these modern applications through the cloud needs to be managed. Again, the need for a cloud OS.

Microsoft has been at the center of this transformation. As a large-scale service provider, we’ve been experiencing all of these changes real time, in our datacenters and through our services, learning and applying those learnings to what we build even as we work with the industry to push the limits of the technology. Our conversation since that first TechEd, and the focus on the operating system, isn’t new:  the OS is still the intelligence that makes it all work. What has changed is the scale, the scope, and the range of the infrastructure OS to deliver against the opportunities the cloud presents. With Windows Server 2012 and Windows  Azure, we’ve taken everything we’ve learned from running datacenters and services at global scale and are delivering the next generation of operating systems – the “cloud OS” – to help our customers seize the opportunities of the cloud. 

I’m looking forward to talking a lot more about this new era of the cloud OS at TechEd this week and how we are helping customers make the very most of this transition. If you aren’t able to join us live in Orlando this week, I hope you’ll have a chance to view the keynotes online. It’s an exciting time to be in IT!

Posted by Satya Nadella
President, Server & Tools Business, Microsoft