Microsoft's ServiceOS Focuses On the Cloud, But How Open Is It?

by Sam Dean - Mar. 28, 2011Comments (0)

Among major technology companies, the cloud is increasingly becoming the important frontier for platform plays, with Hewlett-Packard, Amazon, Google, Red Hat and numerous other players customizing their cloud strategies. Microsoft, too, has been beating the cloud drum for a long time, pushing its Azure platform and many other initiatives. But Microsoft's core business still revolves around the Windows platform and Office applications running on it. Over time, that focus may change, as Microsoft reveals more about its ServiceOS platform. It has flown under the radar for the most part, but is in the works, and it may face its most significant competition from open source platforms.

Microsoft Research officials have discussed the architecture of ServiceOS here.  According to the brief:

"[ServiceOS is] a platform that tightly integrates a multi-principal browsing architecture with the underlying OS. ServiceOS provides a centralized, fine-grained resource access control model, and uses recursive web-oriented algorithms for sharing system resources. ServiceOS also introduces new abstractions that allow a web service to explicitly allocate and manage resources for any helper services they embed (e.g., via iframes). A key challenge that ServiceOS solves is managing resources in the face of complex web service composition."

From the "service" in its name to other aspects of it, ServiceOS sounds a lot like Microsoft's long-term answer to Amazon Web Services.  But The Register notes that it may also be competitive with Google's upcoming Chrome OS--which focuses on the cloud--and HP's WebOS, which the company has announced will become a key cloud computing platform going forward:

"A new abstract posted by lead researcher Helen Wang explains that ServiceOS supports the SaaS (software as a service) approach, also a heavy focus for HP. Using the platform, a 'master copy of a user's applications resides in the cloud and cached on end devices,' whether these run Windows Phone, post-Windows 8 or browser. The abstract shows how rich web content, such as a YouTube video, could be embedded in a traditional Word application without compromising security, bringing together the old Microsoft and the new web worlds under one umbrella that is still controlled by the Windows giant."

Microsoft does indeed need to transition from the "old Microsoft" to platforms that are more flexible and useful in the cloud, but how open will Microsoft's platform be? With Chrome OS, Google is delivering a platform that is based on Linux and potentially as flexible as any open source platform. WebOS also has open source core components, and players like Red Hat are pursuing openness in the cloud with fervor. 

So far, all details on ServiceOS sound like it will leverage Microsoft's Windows legacy, which could box out those interested in deploying applications in the cloud on flexible, open platforms. For more on ServiceOS, see Mary Jo Foley's discussion of the "Gazelle" architecture it has. This platform isn't yet upon us, but will be one to watch in the cloud computing wars.

 

 



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