Microsoft advances Azure management, software-defined networking plans

Ed Scannell

LAS VEGAS – Microsoft has delivered some of the Windows Azure services it promised last year and set its sights on software-defined networking -- an area some IT pros want to learn more about.

Microsoft used its Management Summit 2013 here to inch its Windows Azure services story forward with news that its System Center Management Pack for Windows Azure applications is available. The company also showed off a preview of its System Center Advisor Connector for Operation Manager.

In addition, Microsoft divulged plans to participate in OpenDaylight, a vendor-driven open source project formed for the purpose of advancing software-defined networking (SDN) initiatives. The news underscores what the company has said recently about its commitment to a standards-based approach to SDN and virtualization.

Some attendees said they were less than impressed with the Azure-related news but said they would like to know more about Microsoft's plans for SDN.

"At last year's show they talked about delivering a lot of the Azure-related services things, and so now they are making some of them available," said Thom George, an IT services administrator with a Las Vegas-based retailer. "Alright, well, what else you got?"

He was more interested in the brief discussion and demo that Brad Andersen, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows Server and System Center division, delivered during the keynote on SDN.

"That is something we will have to pay attention to given our existing Microsoft investments," he said.

Others have put SDN ahead of their cloud plans.

"We aren't ready to move to Azure-based services yet; that will happen when we go to Windows Server [2012], so there isn't a lot of interest there," said one IT systems administrator who requested anonymity. "But the software-defined networking technologies [are] something we need to lock in on. This could be a major cost savings for us in the future."

The company also said its Windows Azure Active Directory has moved from beta to production use and is now commercially available. Currently, Windows Azure, Azure Online Backup, Office 365 and Windows InTune use Windows Azure Active Directory.

Microsoft also said today that Azure Backup is now available as a public-paid preview and that its Global Service Monitor is available.

Toward the end of his keynote, Andersen teased attendees about a major disclosure Microsoft will make at its TechEd conference in June that will detail "the next wave" of technology investments the company plans to make that will focus on the dataenter. Andersen would only say it concerns better enabling the company's "people-centric approach to IT."

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