Microsoft Azure Stack Changes the Game in Hybrid Cloud Computing

NEWS ANALYSIS: The newly-released Azure Stack cloud bundle is about to show how enterprises can deploy true hybrid clouds that are fully interoperable across on-premises and external data centers.

Microsoft Azure Cloud Stack

ORLANDO, Fla.—Until recently, hybrid cloud computing has been more myth than reality, an idea promoted by tech vendors threatened by Amazon Web Services.

Users only had to create a private cloud (i.e., in an on premises data center) internally and use AWS or another public cloud service and voila—they have a hybrid cloud.

But in the past few weeks the hybrid cloud landscape has changed significantly. This week at its Ignite conference, Microsoft and several hardware partners announced availability of the long awaited Azure Stack—a configurable rack of hardware bundled with the same code that runs Microsoft's Azure public cloud.

The myth about hybrid cloud that Azure Stack has shattered is that now both clouds, internal and external, private and public, are fully interoperable—at least in the Azure world.

That follows the rollout in August of VMware Cloud on AWS, a managed service that enables on premises customers to transfer VMware instances to AWS and integrate them with all of the AWS Services. Those VMware instances are still manageable by vCenter and vRealize tools in users’ own data centers.

Both Microsoft and VMware offer users a path to the cloud. Both are closer to what a true hybrid model should look like, which would include common toolsets that can manage both cloud and on premises workloads seamlessly along with the ability to readily move workloads between the two environments.

Microsoft shots fired

Microsoft wasted no time in putting its version of next-generation hybrid clouds up against the competition.

"How many of you have heard of this VMware on AWS thing?" Microsoft Azure Chief Technology Officer Mark Russinovich asked attendees here. "This is not a hybrid play. It's a hosted virtualization play. It’s a way to get your VMware estate up into a co-lo [co-location facility] with AWS services nearby."

On the other hand, he said, Azure Stack is a place where users can embrace cloud "in place" and create cloud applications on premises—applications that can then be deployed internally or externally.

He cited other use cases for Azure Stack, such as storing and processing of data on the edge, and enabling companies to deploy cloud apps globally while allowing for local data sovereignty regulations.

The bigger prize, however, is digital transformation—the concept that using modern technology and the cloud will enable IT organizations to become more automated and more responsive to the business.

That transformation will not come cheaply. Dell EMC, one of the six Azure Stack hardware partners announced here, will list an entry-level system at $300,000. On top of that, Dell EMC will make available its own services including Data Domain Virtual Edition backup software, and later Pivotal Cloud Foundry's Platform-as-a-Service software.

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...