Microsoft this week unveiled something many of its customers have been waiting for: help in getting them into cloud computing -- hybrid cloud computing, to be exact. Whether large enterprises or small business, it's going to become easier to make use of auxiliary cloud services through standard Windows Server management.

Businesses that have been reluctant to get the cloud journey underway on their own -- not enough IT staff, no budget for off-premises public cloud use -- can now turn to the familiar Windows Server and System Center, the Windows Server systems management console, and find an embedded roadmap to the cloud. The enhancements will be found in the 2012 Release 2 versions of each, which become available Oct. 18.

Some people thought Microsoft's naming of its Windows Azure cloud services meant that Windows was now in the cloud. In fact, it's the other way around. It means the Azure cloud will soon be in Windows, the server operating system already occupying 70% of the data center floor, in many cases.

And the Azure service pack that will sit on top of Windows Server and Microsoft System Center is itself not just a set of stray code modules but what Microsoft likes to call "a cloud operating system" that works in conjunction with Windows in the data center.

"Azure is a new operating system, designed not just for our cloud, but for anybody to build a cloud with," said Satya Nadella, Microsoft's executive VP for cloud and enterprise. In other words, customers who want to build out a private cloud on premises come Oct. 18 will have the tools and familiar management console with which to do so. The Azure modules working as part of Windows Server and System Center will automatically be able to connect to one or more of the 13 major Azure data centers worldwide.

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