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TechEd conference finds Microsoft pitching hard on Windows 8, cloud OS.

By Tim Greene.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Microsoft wants its customers to know two things: that Windows 8 is ready for the enterprise and that it has products and services for creating flexible hybrid cloud environments -- a cloud OS.

Those are the two big messages the company pushed at its TechEd North America 2012 conference here, where some parts of those ideas resonated with customers, but others were met with skepticism.

"Move development to the cloud? That's a pretty good idea," said Andre Beaupre, president of Groupe ABI, a data center consultancy in Montreal. He was embracing Microsoft's spin that Windows Server 2012 plus its upgraded cloud offering, Azure, equals a cloud operating system that can boost capacity on the fly as needed for developers.

Microsoft also says its cloud OS can front-end applications while keeping data those apps use safe at corporate sites, and that it supports moving entire virtual servers -- including Linuxservers -- in and out of Azure.

MORE FROM TECHED: Windows Server 2012 isn't available yet, but it's powering Bing

TEST YOURSELF: The Windows 8 Quiz

As for Windows 8 being ready, its radical shift toward touch and Metro-style, graphics-heavy apps had customers at the conference wondering whether the end users they serve will see enough value to climb the learning curve for the new OS. "I don't know how it's going to be accepted," said Steve Williamson, a sys/ops manager at Santa Fe College in Gainsville, Fla., with about 22,500 students, faculty and staff. "I'll probably wait in it until I get some internal push for it."

Microsoft trumpeted its two big pushes at 90-minute keynotes attended by most of the 8,600 customers the company says attended its annual conference, which was celebrating its 20th year.

The cloud OS framework is built around Windows Server 2012 and Azure, both of which have significant new features.

The OS analogy goes like this: Operating systems manage hardware and are the platform on which applications run. A cloud OS, then, manages the hardware at the scale of a data center and provides the varying platforms on which applications run.

Microsoft is saying Windows Server can manage the physical resources, including pulling them together from a pool of whatever resources are available - in traditional data centers, private clouds and public clouds.

Server 2012 is much more powerful, said Microsoft's Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft's server and tools business. The server, due out later this year, sports up to 320 logical processors per server and 4TB of memory, and up to 64 virtual processors and 1TB of memory per virtual machine. These big numbers, plus the fact that the final preliminary version of Server 2012 is powering the production network for the Bing search engine, indicate a significant upgrade to and stability of the platform, he said.

As for Azure, it recently added support for virtual machines -- including some flavors of Linux -- making Azure an infrastructure-as-a-service provider, not just a platform-as-a-service provider. This ability to shift entire virtual machines in and out of the cloud under the control of Windows Server 2012 is one upside of cloud OS, Nadella said.

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