• Last week Microsoft announced two new additions to the Azure family of solutions with the goal of targeting an even broader set of customer workloads.
• Microsoft needs to continue innovating with Azure Stack to ensure it remains competitive vis-à-vis a growing number of alternative hybrid cloud solutions.
It’s been a little over a year since the first distributions of Microsoft’s Azure Stack became commercially available, offered by hardware partners that include Dell EMC, Cisco, HPE, Huawei, and Lenovo. Azure Stack is Microsoft’s hybrid cloud play, allowing the vendor to target enterprise customers that, for various reasons, need to keep certain workloads on-premises, while still taking advantage of cloud-based services and resources, including developer tools. According to Microsoft, Azure Stack is now available in 92 countries/regions worldwide and, although the number of Azure Stack customers has not been disclosed, notable customers include Airbus, Royal Dutch Shell, Heathrow Airport, and InterContenential Hotels.
Over the past year Microsoft has continued to add more Azure Cloud features to Azure Stack as part of its regular updates. These updates and additions contribute to a more consistent experience for Azure Stack customers across both their on-premises and public cloud environments, thereby enhancing the utility and overall effectiveness of the solution for a range of use cases. One important new Azure Stack feature, currently in preview, is support for Kubernetes. Users will be able to deploy Kubernetes clusters using the same resource manager templates as in the Azure cloud. This means that applications built using containers can be deployed both on-premises and in the Azure public cloud, while using the same code across each platform. In addition, developers will have access to Azure’s existing service fabric, simplifying migration to and from the public cloud.
Last week Microsoft announced two new additions to the Azure family of solutions with the goal of targeting an even broader set of customer workloads. The first of the new solutions, Azure Stack HCI solutions, is a variation of Azure Stack that leverages a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, and which will allow Microsoft to offer customers more effective on-premises support for virtualized workloads. Azure Stack HCI solutions will be offered in conjunction with several hardware partners and will appeal to Azure Stack customers that want to consolidate aging server equipment and secure cost and performance benefits from their on-premises infrastructure. However, Azure Stack HCI is not an exact alternative to Azure Stack and users will not have access to the full range of application development services available to Azure Stack customers.
The second latest addition to the Azure portfolio is Data Box Edge, a new SaaS-based appliance will appeal to Microsoft customers that need to process and transfer data generated at the edge of their networks. Built-in Azure Machine Learning capabilities allow users to analyze and process data close to points of collection, minimizing the volume of data transfers to the Azure cloud. However, the solution is primarily aimed at storage and data-intensive workloads and will likely be less suitable for enterprises requiring a compute-intensive edge architecture.
Microsoft knows that it needs to continue innovating and broadening the tools and capabilities available to Azure Stack customers if Azure Stack is to remain competitive vis-à-vis a growing range of alternative solutions. Public cloud competitors, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM, Google, Oracle, and Alibaba, are all aggressively targeting the market for cloud customers that also need to maintain on-premises workloads. For example, AWS already has a hybrid cloud partnership with VMware and is expected to come to market later this year with a new managed, on-premises version of its cloud platform called AWS Outposts. Meanwhile, IBM has pitched its acquisition of Red Hat in terms of its potential to make it a global leader in the provision of hybrid cloud solutions. Perceived benefits of the acquisition to IBM’s cloud stack including key DevOps technologies such as Red Hat’s Kubernetes solution via CoreOS.