Redmond Got Some Things Right in 2008

Windows Azure and the Move to the Cloud

Microsoft's necessary transition to a cloud computing platform is Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie's labor of love. At PDC in October, Ozzie unveiled Windows Azure, an operating system that lets companies run Windows applications in the cloud and store files and data using Microsoft's data centers.

According to Ozzie, this "Windows for the Web" will eventually facilitate all of Microsoft's enterprise software into the cloud. With Windows Azure, as well as Office Live and Live Mesh, Microsoft let the world know that it is building a Windows-branded Web-based environment and is not, in fact, a desktop dinosaur.

So Microsoft has stepped in the ring with cloud computing players Google (Google App Engine), Amazon (EC2) and IBM (Blue Cloud utility computing platform), but it hasn't thrown any punches yet. Those companies have cloud computing platforms in operation with lots of customers. So far, Microsoft has only announcements and demos.

Because Microsoft is so late to the cloud computing market, it will need to move quick in 2009 to turn Azure's grand plan into action for enterprises.

Windows Server 2008 Gets Raves

While Windows Vista languished in 2008, its server-side brethren Windows Server 2008 quietly flourished.

Microsoft's server operating system, released in February, received accolades for performance, reliability and new features. (It shares the same code base as Vista SP1, which did much to improve Vista.)

The reviews for Windows Server 2008 were positive across the board. In addition to having praised features such as unified scripting tool PowerShell, a Windows Firewall that enables by default and a new security technology called NAP (Network Access Protection), Microsoft followed through on its promise with Windows Server 2008 to go greener with the release in June of its virtualization hypervisor, Hyper-V.

Hyper-V sets the stage for a server virtualization slugfest with VMware and Citrix in the coming year as more IT managers try to save money in a weak economy by consolidating data on fewer physical servers through virtualization.

At PDC in October, there was a pre-beta developer release of Windows Server 2008 release 2, which will enhance the use of virtual machines, along with other features. And for the first time since Windows 2000, Microsoft is co-developing its Windows Server and Windows client products together. So Windows Server 2008 R2 will be in lock step with Windows 7.

Yep, Microsoft is getting organized, and it needs to because 2009 will be a pivotal year on all fronts for the software giant.

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