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Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 support hybrid clouds

Microsoft will deliver new versions of Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 this year, with focus on hybrid clouds.

NEW ORLEANS -- New versions of Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 include hybrid cloud capabilities that give IT administrators ways to move workloads between private and public clouds.

Microsoft also added support for multi-device management and the company changed part of its Azure billing.

Windows Server 2012 R2, entering preview this month, includes features for enterprise hybrid clouds through software-defined networking (SDN), storage enhancements and virtual machine portability. The new products were demoed here at TechEd 2013.

This allows customers to create a hybrid cloud to run some infrastructure in their own environment, some of it in the public cloud or some of it with a service provider, said Eron Kelly, a Microsoft spokesperson.

Microsoft also introduced Hyper-V Network Virtualization, a new technology that uses SDN to define how a network can reach across private and service provider data centers.

"[A] network no longer just has to live behind my firewall on-premises and in my data center -- that network can now be defined to span both on-premises environment and the Azure public cloud," Kelly said.

The SDN functionality opens up the possibility for enterprises to develop apps that work with both public and private cloud scenarios, Kelly said. For example, some customers' apps can "burst into the cloud" when running high-volume tasks.

Beyond virtual networking improvements, there are storage enhancements. Windows Server 2012 R2 will enable admins to manage the storage infrastructure -- SSDs or traditional hard drives -- used for different data sets.

For example, Windows Server 2012 R2 will manage certain application scenarios that demand higher performance and that workload can be designated to an SSD, Kelly said.

The company also made virtual machine performance and portability improvements. Windows Server 2012 R2 will make it easier to set up a virtual machine test and development environment in Azure and pull it down to run on-premises.

In addition, the process for moving VMs from on-premises to other third-party cloud service providers has been simplified.

"I think there will be a demand for that, actually," said Mike Drips, an information architect at CSC in Houston, Texas. "In the past it has been painful to do with Azure. I think this is something corporations have wanted for some time but it had taken Microsoft quite a while to deliver it."

Windows Server 2012 R2 signals a change hinted at earlier this year at a faster release strategy, codenamed "Blue," alongside client counterpart Windows 8.1.

Cross-platform device management with System Center 2012 R2

As more enterprises allow employees to use their own devices, Microsoft will deliver device management to the latest System Center version. In short: System Center 2012 R2 will play better with iOS and Android.

Now IT can manage devices using a single management interface and a common reporting infrastructure, IT can better control which corporate apps they want to publish and to which users and to which devices based on where they are, Kelly said.

Single sign-on will also be supported for "key" enterprise apps, Kelly said.

Microsoft details Azure BizTalk, pricing changes

Microsoft revamped its pricing structure for VMs and worker roles, switching to a per-minute billing from a per-hour billing.

This, Kelly said, is a cost benefit for Azure users.

"Rather than rounding up to the nearest hour, we are rounding up to the nearest minute -- which we think is new in the industry and it gives customers better value," Kelly said.

TechEd attendees also saw a preview of Azure BizTalk, which will allow them to perform EDI processing in the cloud.

Senior Executive Editor Ed Scannell and Senior News Writer Diana Hwang contributed to this report.

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