Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Microsoft Research Announces Cloud Computing Futures Group, Orleans Software for Azure at TechFest 2009

Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research, announced on 2/24/2009 a new research organization called Cloud Computing Futures (CCF). According to Rob Knies, CCF will be:

[F]ocused on reducing the operational costs of data centers and increasing their adaptability and resilience to failure. The group, led by Dan Reed, director of Scalable and Multicore Systems, will strive to lower hardware costs, power consumption, and the environmental impact of such facilities.

The Peering into Future of Cloud Computing post continues with a Q&A session about CCF with Reed. Among the group’s immediate goals is:

Our goal is to reduce data-center costs by fourfold or greater while accelerating deployment and increasing adaptability and resilience to failures, transferring ideas into products and practice. To date, we have focused our attention on four areas, though our agenda spans next-generation storage devices and memories, new processors and processor architectures, system packaging, and software tools. …

We have been working with researchers from Microsoft Research on several approaches to data-center networking. The most mature of these is Monsoon, which uses much of the existing networking hardware but replaces the software with a new set of communications protocols far better suited for a data center. This work will not only lead to more efficient networks, but by relaxing the constraints of existing networks, it also will open new possibilities to simplify data-center software and to build more robust platforms.

Reed adds the following about the Orleans software platform:

  • Orleans software platform: The software that runs in the data center is a complicated, distributed system. It must handle a vast number of requests from across the globe, and the computers on which the software runs fail regularly—but the service itself should not fail, even though the software is continually changing as the service evolves and new features are added. Orleans is a new software platform that runs on Microsoft’s Windows® Azure™ system and provides the abstractions, programming languages, and tools that make it easier to build cloud services.

This is the first reference to “Orleans” with Azure that I’ve found and “Orleans software platform” gets only one Google hit this morning. I assume it encompasses the Azure Fabric Controller, but its “programming languages” remain a mystery.

The theme of TechFest 2009, being held at the Redmond campus, is Technology “Signposts” Point to Future of Computing.