Azure Services For Windows Server

Microsoft likes to talk about how they are the only company offering both pubic (Azure) and private (Windows Server and System Center) cloud solutions.  What about hosting partners?  Can they implement Azure?  In the immortal words of Vicky Pollard: no but yeah.

You can’t buy Azure appliances.  They were supposed to come via the likes of Fujitsu and Dell but they never emerged.  But there is another way.  You can build a public cloud based on Azure Service For Windows Server, formerly Codename Katal.  A lot of people actually prefer to refer to ASWS as Katal.

Uh oh!  Is this yet another incomplete hosting pack from Microsoft that is forgotten almost as soon as it is released?  The answer: no.  This is something very important to Microsoft, as you can tell by the strategic reuse of the Azure name.  As for the incomplete question: this is a pretty (not 100%) complete solution.

What do you get?  Well, you get a solution that uses VMM and the Service Provider Foundation (SPF). This allows you to build a multi-tenant cloud.  Sticking Katal in front of SPF gives you tenant (customer) and management (cloud admin) portals.  You can build service plans for web hosting (IIS 8.0), database (MySQL and SQL Server) hosting, and IaaS (VM hosting).  Those plans are then made available to tenants who can register via the externally facing tenant portal (and API – both hopefully load balanced).

The tenant experience is amazingly similar to the real Azure.  This is indicative of how important this product is to Microsoft, and how it should be treated differently to past hosting “solutions”.  I’ve paid near no attention to those past offerings – and I used Hyper-V and System Center in hosting!  But I’m paying attention to this release.

Importantly for hosting companies, you can rebrand Katal to suit the company.  The solution is mostly complete.  It comes with the modular source code.  You can add on extra functionality that hosting companies usually build for themselves such as:

  • DNS reselling – there’s a built in pack for reselling GoDaddy
  • Tenant onboarding – maybe you want to capture and validate payment data before completing the new customer registration
  • Billing – you’ll need to work with a partner or develop your own add-on for automated billing

At first you might question the lack of these features.  However, most hosting companies already have these services in place and Katal will have to fit in around them.

Be careful with customization; do it on a documented and modular way so that future upgrades from Microsoft don’t break your cloud (always test before upgrades).

The Katal portals do not integrate with the real Azure.

Katal is aimed at the hosting community but I think the enterprise should pay attention too.  Katal is a superb self-service portal, providing a very user-friendly essential element to the cloud recipe.

If you want to learn more then:

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