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Windows Server 2019 – It’s getting cloudy out there

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There’s this new term out there, you may have even heard of it…cloud. While the word “cloud” has certainly turned into a buzzword that is often misused and spoken of inappropriately, the idea of cloud infrastructure is an incredibly powerful one. A cloud fabric is one that revolves around virtual resources—virtual machines, virtual disks, and even virtual networks. Being plugged into the cloud typically enables things like the ability to spin up new servers on a whim, or even the ability for particular services themselves to increase or decrease their needed resources automatically, based on utilization.

Think of a simple e-commerce website where a consumer can go to order goods. Perhaps 75% of the year, they can operate this website on a single web server with limited resources, resulting in a fairly low cost of service. But, the other 25% of the year, maybe around the holiday seasons, utilization ramps way up, requiring much more computing power. Prior to cloud mentality, this would mean that the company would need to size their environment to fit the maximum requirements all the time, in case it was ever needed. They would be paying for more servers and much more computing power than was needed for the majority of the year. With a cloud fabric, giving the website the ability to increase or decrease the number of servers it has at its disposal as needed, the total cost of such a website or service can be drastically decreased. This is a major driving factor of cloud in business today.

Public cloud

Most of the time, when your neighbor Suzzi Knowitall talks to you about the cloud, she is simply talking about the internet. Well, more accurately she is talking about some service that she uses, which she connects to by using the internet. For example, Office 365, Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox—these are all public cloud resources, as they are storing your data in the cloud. In reality, your data is just sitting on servers which you access via the internet, but you can’t see those servers and you don’t have to administer and maintain those servers, which is why it feels like magic and is then referred to as the cloud.

To IT departments, the term “cloud” more often means one of the big three cloud hosting providers. Since this is a Microsoft-driven book, and since I truly feel this way anyway, Azure is top-notch in this category. Azure itself is another topic for another (or many other) book, but is a centralized cloud compute architecture that can host your data, your services, or even your entire network of servers.

Moving your datacenter to Azure enables you to stop worrying or caring about server hardware, replacing hard drives, and much more. Rather than purchasing servers, unboxing them, racking them, installing Windows on them, and then setting up the roles you want configured, you simply click a few buttons to spin up new virtual servers that can be resized at any time for growth. You then pay smaller op-ex costs for these servers—monthly or annual fees for running systems inside the cloud, rather than the big cap-ex costs for server hardware in the first place.

Other cloud providers with similar capabilities are numerous, but the big three are Azure, Amazon (AWS), and Google. As far as enterprise is concerned, Azure simply takes the cake and eats it too. I’m not sure that the others will ever be able to catch up with all of the changes and updates that Microsoft constantly makes to the Azure infrastructure.

Private cloud

While most people working in the IT sector these days have a pretty good understanding of what it means to be part of a cloud service, and many are indeed doing so today, a term which is being pushed into enterprises everywhere and is still many times misunderstood is private cloud. At first, I took this to be a silly marketing ploy, a gross misuse of the term “cloud” to try and appeal to those hooked by buzzwords. Boy was I wrong. In the early days of private clouds, the technology wasn’t quite ready to stand up to what was being advertised.

Today, however, that story has changed. It is now entirely possible to take the same fabric that is running up in the true, public cloud, and install that fabric right inside your data center. This enables you to provide your company with cloud benefits such as the ability to spin resources up and down, and to run everything virtualized, and to implement all of the neat tips and tricks of cloud environments, with all of the serving power and data storage remaining locally owned and secured by you. Trusting cloud storage companies to keep data safe and secure is absolutely one of the biggest blockers to implementation on the true public cloud, but, by installing your own private cloud, you get the best of both worlds, specifically stretchable compute environments with the security of knowing you still control and own all of your own data.

This is not a book about clouds, public or private. I mention this to give a baseline for some of the items we will discuss in later chapters, and also to get your mouth watering a little bit to dig in and do a little reading yourself on cloud technology. You will see Windows Server 2019 interface in many new ways with the cloud, and will notice that so many of the underlying systems available in Server 2019 are similar to, if not the same as, those becoming available inside Microsoft Azure.

In these pages, we will not focus on the capabilities of Azure, but rather a more traditional sense of Windows Server that would be utilized on-premise. With the big push toward cloud technologies, it’s easy to get caught with blinders on and think that everything and everyone is quickly running to the cloud for all of their technology needs, but it simply isn’t true. Most companies will have the need for many on-premise servers for many years to come; in fact, many may never put full trust in the cloud and will forever maintain their own data centers. These data centers will have local servers that will require server administrators to manage them. That is where you come in.

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