[caption id="attachment_1814" align="aligncenter" width="579" caption="Windows Azure lets IT pros create Windows Server virtual machines in the cloud."] [/caption] For some time, Microsoft has pushed an “all in” cloud strategy, one in which its newest generations of products either wholly or partially embrace some sort of cloud functionality. For most consumers, this strategy is most visible with platforms such as Office 365, the cloud version of the company’s popular Office productivity suite. But Microsoft has a larger vision for the cloud, one that involves selling IT administrators and other pros on the idea of a “cloud OS,” or company infrastructure optimized for the cloud. That means datacenters and networks built on technology that enables application and data management across multiple environments, including the cloud and on-premises. At Microsoft’s 20th TechEd North America conference in Orlando, Fla., which kicked off June 11, the company rolled out three systems designed to optimize companies’ infrastructure for the cloud. In doing so, of course, Microsoft hopes to fend off cloud-infrastructure challenges from companies such as Oracle and IBM, which have their own designs on cloud-optimized datacenters and networks. “The modern datacenter and modern apps put more pressure than ever on infrastructure to become truly cloud-optimized,” Microsoft Server and Tools Business president Satya Nadella wrote in prepared remarks delivered at the conference. A cloud-optimized datacenter, he added, gives businesses the ability to both maintain infrastructure and develop apps in a lower-cost and more agile environment. Microsoft’s updates to Windows Azure include persistent virtual machines for running both Windows and Linux applications in the cloud; in addition, the platform features new language libraries for Java, PHP, Node.js, and .NET, along with the ability to bring customized Linux images into the Azure cloud environment. The new Azure’s addition of an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) layer also makes it more of a mainstream competitor to the likes of Amazon. “The new IaaS service is clearly designed with at least surface knowledge of the market leaders, Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, and others,” James Staten, an analyst with Forrester, wrote in a June blog posting soon after the feature’s unveiling, “and leverages a much more mature Hyper-V as a virtualization layer.” Microsoft also used TechEd North America to fill in additional details about Windows Server 2012, which the company optimized for cloud work. Specifically, it offers multi-tenant infrastructure, complete with the ability to deploy applications in either the cloud, on-premises, or in a hybrid environment. Microsoft claims its own experiences in running datacenters for the cloud informed the development of Windows Server 2012; indeed, the technology apparently powers the company’s Bing.com. For IT administrators wrestling with an entire office network, Microsoft unveiled a third version of Windows Intune, a suite of cloud-based services and PC management tools, including mobile device management. Microsoft’s “cloud OS” push at TechEd came on the heels of IBM offering developers a host of new tools for the cloud, and Oracle’s new cloud, which CEO Larry Ellison claimed will feature more than 100 enterprise-grade applications, including platform and database services. In other words, the tech-titan battle for the database and IT infrastructure market shows no signs of abating as it heads for the cloud.   Image: Microsoft