Ballmer Says MS Will Release a New Version of Windows for the Cloud this Fall

By John Osborn
October 1, 2008

The Register, InfoWorld and others reported Wednesday that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said that Microsoft will release later this month a new version of its Windows operating system as part of its much rumored platform for cloud computing.

Ballmer made his announcement at a Software plus Services partner event in London. Here's part of what Kelly Fiveash of the Register quotes Ballmer as saying:

"We need a new operating system designed for the cloud and we will introduce one in about four weeks, we'll even have a name to give you by then. But let's just call it for the purposes of today 'Windows Cloud'.

"Just like Windows Server looked a lot like Windows but with new properties, new characteristics and new features, so will Windows Cloud look a lot like Windows Server."

Stan Schroeder of Mashable thinks the announcement smells fishy and that any such project is likely months, not weeks, in the future.

Some wonder if "Windows Cloud" might be a commercial release of the Midori OS, an "incubation" project at Microsoft whose identity began leaking from the Company in a flurry of July reports, including a blog by ZDnet's Mary J Foley. David Worthington of SD Times has written that Midori is a next generation OS "incubation project" headed by Senior VP Eric Rudder, former head of Microsoft's server and tools division, which in turn is thought to draw inspiration from a long-running Microsoft Research project named Singularity. Worthington, who has seen internal project documents and has interviewed engineers familiar with the project, writes:

Midori will have provisions for distributed concurrency--or cloud computing--where application components exist in data centers. Doing so will require work in three areas: execution techniques, a platform stack and a programming model that can tolerate cancellation, intermittent connectivity and latency.

According to the Singularity web page, the project seeks to "improve software" by drawing on "advances in languages, compilers and tools." One such advance, which would prove useful in highly distributed environments, such as "the cloud," is the use of Software Isolated Processes:

Singularity uses type-safe languages and an abstract instruction set to enable what we call Software Isolated Processes (SIPs). SIPs provide the strong isolation guarantees of OS processes (isolated object space, separate GCs, separate runtimes) without the overhead of hardware-enforced protection domains.

...Singularity runs each program, device driver, or system extension in its own SIP. SIPs are not allowed to share memory or modify their own code. As a result, we can make strong reliability guarantees about the code running in a SIP. We can verify much broader properties about a SIP at compile or install time than can be done for code running in traditional OS processes. Broader application of static verification is critical to predicting system behavior and providing users with strong guarantees about reliability.

Microsoft released code and an SDK for Singularity in March. It's worth noting that Microsoft Research just happens to be headed by Rick Rashid, whom many consider to be the father of the pioneering Mach OS which inspired a generation of micro-kernal OS implementations.

Stay tuned.

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