In-Depth

Q&A: Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Yousef Khalidi Discusses Private Cloud Migration

Yousef Khalidi talked about Microsoft's new Azure cloud services at the Interop trade show on Thursday.

After a long week at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, Yousef Khalidi flew across the country to New York on Thursday to talk about Microsoft's new Azure cloud services at the Interop trade show.

Khalidi, a distinguished engineer at Microsoft for cloud infrastructure services, sat on a panel among rivals Amazon, Google and hosting provider Joyent in a keynote session. Also on that panel were three prospective customers who grilled Khalidi and his competitors citing their preference for a private clouds.

In an interview following the panel discussion, Khalidi talked about some of those concerns and Microsoft's plans to deliver a private cloud offering.

What's your definition of a private cloud?
During PDC, both Bob Muglia and Ray Ozzie discussed the need for the cloud to expand beyond just the public cloud. Technically, it will look very much the same as in the public cloud, the scale-out and so forth. As Bob said in his keynote, we do believe the operation model is very much evolving to the cloud, and whether you instantiate a cloud on premises or off premises, it is a function of a number of things, such as regulation and compliance and government needs. This is very much what we are pushing for. Today, Windows Azure is a public cloud offering, and it is very much aimed at the Web 2.0 crowd, and going forward we will expand the scope from Web 2.0 to the enterprise. Branding and the like will be determined, of course.

How will you deliver this private cloud?
Stay tuned. We have said that we believe in this full spectrum and we will deliver using our software stacks. We have a lot of IP involved here but the dates and the like, we haven't discussed yet.

Based on what these customers were saying on the panel, do you think you will be able to address these concerns about compliance and security?
To be honest, the customers had very good questions and the questions are very much along the lines we get from big enterprise customers. For enterprise multi-nationals and for governments, there was not a question we haven't heard yet or we are not engaged in discussion with already. And as you know, we have been in the enterprise for many, many years. So we have that relationship with the customer and the expertise with the customer to build on to address the needs both in today's IT and the future in the cloud.

You said the early adopters of Azure will appeal to those building Web 2.0 applications.
If you look at the roadmap we put out a year ago, it was a more confined environment that was more amenable to .NET only. Over the subsequent months, we opened it up. You can program now in Java, PHP and managed code. We have shown future technologies at PDC that will enable connectivity back to the enterprise for enterprise-based-centric solutions. We now have SQL Azure which is very much heavy-duty enterprise SQL in the cloud. We have service bus technology that is very much focused on connecting the enterprise to the cloud. So we are actually delivering technology as we speak with the connectivity between them. But there is more to our roadmap.

What kind of apps are best suited for Azure today?
I believe extranet applications and collaboration scenarios will move to the cloud first. If you're a company that works with suppliers, all of these companies have these scenarios and many of these are amenable to moving to the cloud sooner than others. Others may follow when the technology and regulations catch up, others may never go to the cloud which is fine with us. We're not going to try hit everyone with the same thing.

Can you explain Microsoft's view of so-called hybrid clouds?
From a developer's perspective, we are very much on a path where we want to provide a uniform set of tooling, programming models, service models that are applicable to your on-premises or to public clouds and anything in between. Even if you don't use the cloud, per se, but use cloud principles, it is a good programming model to follow. What I am talking about is a scale-out model.

How much does Oslo, now called SQL Server Modeling, fit into that?
Modeling is an important part of the cloud. The opportunity of the cloud is basically lower cost of ownership and lower cost of operations. To have low-cost operation, you have to have automation. How do you have automation? You have to be model-driven. In other words, a computer has to take your needs as a developer and has to do the execution on your behalf. We don't have admins touching things and the like. So modeling is an important part of the cloud programming model.

What else is important in this transition?
You also need to look at the way your application scales. It has to be a scale-out model, it has to be horizontal scaling, not vertical scaling. If you want more than eight CPUs, for example, or some number -- whatever that sweet spot is nowadays -- you can't just say we need a big SMP box. They'll give you a hundred more VMs all over the place, so your programming model has to be amenable to that. Lastly, we do view how this differentiates us from just being a hoster or just being a bunch of VMs in the cloud. Your programming model has to meet the cloud half way.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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