Microsoft Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson told the audience that "nothing Microsoft has ever done has ever been as ambitious" as the features being incorporated into Windows Server 2012. Microsoft Principal Product Manager Jeff Woolsey walked through a few of those features, including Server 2012’s storage pooling and the boosted capabilities of the Hyper-V virtual machine hypervisor.
"People want to start virtualizing their bigger workloads," Woolsey said. "Think massive SQL Server deployments." He demonstrated a Hyper-V virtual server workload running on 32 virtual processors, with 120 gigabytes of memory allocated—and said that Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 would support up to a terabyte of memory per virtual machine, at the same licensing cost as any other virtual workload—a veiled slap at VMware’s software licensing scheme for its hypervisor, which is based on the number of processors used and caps the number of cores per license at 12. Woolsey added that Hyper-V would also support up to 64 terabytes of virtual disk, and claimed that it is "32 times the size of anyone’s" virtual storage support. (VMware’s VSphere supports up to 2TB, minus 512 bytes, per virtual disk.)
Woolsey also touted Windows Server 2012's network virtualization capabilities, which allow multiple virtual networks to share the same network fabric—and even the same IP addresses—in isolation from each other. And he demonstrated a "shared nothing" live migration of a virtual machine from one server to another over an Ethernet network—with no common storage or network resources—using Windows Server 2012's Server Manager.
The Windows Server 2012 announcement was a brief sidelight in a keynote session otherwise dedicated to the rollout of Microsoft’s System Center 2012, the latest edition of the company’s system management environment. Anderson touted the product as a "fast track" to cloud computing, claiming that administrators could perform all the tasks required to launch a private cloud infrastructure within 30 seconds (and Timing Product Manager Vijay Tawari, who came up a bit over the 30 second mark in getting through the steps). Anderson said that over 2,000 customers were already running their own clouds using "pre-release bits" of System Center on over 90,000 servers.
System Center 2012 has two console views: one for the infrastructure management side of an organization (or as Anderson put it, the "service providers"), and another for the "service customers"—those in the organization that own the applications that run within the infrastructure. On the infrastructure management side, System Center 2012 includes features that automate the provisioning of hardware (including deployment of VMware and Citrix hypervisors, as well as Hyper-V, to "bare metal" machines, along with all network and storage configuration); the creation and management of pools of storage resources that can be rated by performance level, allowing storage provisioning to be automated for applications based on a required service level; and the drag-and-drop creation of server clusters. System Center 2012 also allows IT organizations to set up a self-service portal for provisioning of resources.
On the application management side, System Center’s App Controller console gives application administrators a view of both deployed application services and available cloud resources for additional deployments. It automates the rollout of applications from pre-production to full production, based on service templates and wizards, and provides application availability and performance monitoring. System Center can enforce service-level agreements for applications by automatically provisioning and launching additional resources; it also can provide application managers with error data from applications, which can be pushed back to developers to fix through a bridge to Visual Studio development tools.
While many of the features depend on hooking into the underlying features of Microsoft’s own operating systems, virtualization technology, and applications infrastructure, Anderson said that System Center 2012 was "cross platform from bare metal up," supporting VMware and Citrix Xen servers as well as Microsoft’s technology. And he said that 20 percent of System Center customers were already using the platform’s Operations Manager console to monitor Linux workloads.