At TechEd 2013 in New Orleans last week, Microsoft pulled back the curtain on Windows Server 2012 R2 and for IT administrators with a mix of on-premise and cloud infrastructure, what they saw had to be exciting.

Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012, by the end of this year, will include hybrid cloud capabilities that make it easy for IT administrators to move workloads between private and public clouds.

A company or organization will be able to split their infrastructure between their own environment, a public cloud and a service provider, all organized by software-defined networking (SDN). SDN decouples network control from hardware and gives it over to a software application. A network administrator can shape network traffic from a centralized control console without having to change network switch rules.

Microsoft’s Hyper-V Network Virtualization will use SDN to allow a network to reach across private and service provider data centers. This will allow applications to burst into the cloud when load dictates and site-to-site VPN connections.

Other Windows Server 2012 R2 features to look forward to include automatic storage tiering allowing administrators to build out their own storage solutions and improved virtual machine portability between on-premise and cloud environments.

System Center 2012 will offer a single pane of glass through which local and cloud installation can be jointly managed. Device management will be possible from desktops or almost any type of mobile device.

With the latest announcements, Microsoft continues to display their devotion to the cloud. That, plus their statement that Azure is experiencing 210% year over year revenue growth should make for some interesting competitive battles over the next few years.

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