[caption id="attachment_1594" align="aligncenter" width="618" caption="Microsoft already uses Windows Server 2012 to help power Bing.com."] [/caption] Microsoft is kicking off its 20th TechEd North America conference in Orlando, Fla. with announcements related to Windows Server 2012, Windows Intune and Windows Azure—platforms the company insists businesses will need in order to handle rising needs for app development and data management. “The operating system does two things: it looks after the hardware, and it provides a platform for applications,” Microsoft Server and Tools Business president Satya Nadella wrote in prepared remarks ahead of the conference launch. “The modern datacenter and modern apps put more pressure than ever on infrastructure to become truly cloud-optimized.” A cloud operating system for infrastructure, he added, gives businesses the ability to manage and develop apps, as well as maintain a datacenter, with lower costs and more “agility.” Microsoft’s previously announced updates to Windows Azure include Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) features. In addition, it features persistent virtual machines for running both Windows and Linux applications in the cloud, and new language libraries for Java, PHP, Node.js and .NET. Since the Azure updates’ unveiling last week, analysts have commented on how the platform’s capabilities for running both Windows and Linux applications in the cloud, combined with IaaS and virtualization, make it a more robust competitor to public cloud providers such as Amazon. Microsoft is also using the event to showcase the new, third version of Windows Intune, a suite of cloud-based services and PC management tools bundled with a Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade subscription. New features include mobile device management. Microsoft has made a third “pillar” of this year’s TechEd North America, Windows Server 2012, available for download as a Release Candidate since May. Windows Server 2012 has been optimized for cloud work; indeed, Microsoft apparently uses it to power Bing.com, which requires some heavy-duty speed and reliability.  The platform offers multi-tenant infrastructure with the ability to deploy applications either on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment. The company, of course, has taken a hard tack toward the cloud in recent years, with CEO Steve Ballmer declaring on a number of occasions that the company is “all in” when it comes to cloud computing platforms. That strategy has dumped Microsoft into an arena filled with particularly vicious opponents, all of them fighting for a chunk of that business IT dollar: Google, SAP, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Salesforce and Oracle all offer organizations their take on the cloud, whether productivity software or infrastructure. In light of that, Microsoft needs events like TechEd to be heard above the noise.   Image: Microsoft