Cisco to Produce Azure Stack Hybrid Cloud Systems

Another hardware partner joins Microsoft in helping customers run a little piece of the Azure cloud in their own data centers.

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Cisco has joined the list of IT systems vendors producing systems that run Azure Stack, a hybrid-cloud software offering from Microsoft that enables organizations to run Azure software in their own data centers.

The companies this week announced a new Cisco Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack, based on Cisco's UCS (Unified Computing System) of converged infrastructure platform. "Cisco is accelerating hybrid cloud adoption by gearing up to offer Microsoft Azure Stack on Cisco UCS in Q3 2017," wrote Liz Centoni, senior vice president and general manager of the Cisco Computing Systems Product Group, in a Feb. 9 announcement.

Echoing some of the benefits that business leaders seek when they implement cloud-enabled IT strategies, Centoni said the jointly-engineered solution would provide "accelerated growth and innovation for enterprise customers and service providers looking to grow their businesses quickly with an efficient and flexible cloud consumption model. Service providers can deliver Cisco-Azure infrastructure as-a-service (Iaas) and platform-as-a-service (Paas)."

Some components are tailored for Azure Stack-powered workloads. For example, the system's Virtual Interface Card, which handles networking in UCS systems, is optimized for Microsoft's cloud software, claimed Centoni.

UCS has helped Cisco, better known for its computer networking gear, earn a spot among the world's leading server vendors.

In the third quarter of 2016, Cisco, Lenovo and IBM were statistically tied for third place behind Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Dell Technologies in IDC's server vendor rankings. Cisco sold $928 million worth of server equipment during the period and claimed a 7.4-percent share of the worldwide market. It was the only vendor among the top five to register year-over-year growth (4.8 percent) in the quarter.

Building on this success, Cisco announced last year plans to move into the hyperconverged infrastructure space with its new line of HyperFlex Systems.

Other top server makers are readying Azure Stack systems, namely Dell, HPE and Lenovo.

In September, during the Microsoft Ignite 2016 conference, Dell and HPE previewed their forthcoming offerings. Dell EMC is planning two new validated systems. HPE's Azure Stack system will be based on the company's ProLiant DL380 server and will offer compute, networking and storage in an integrated appliance. It will also be available through HPE's pay-as-you-go program, called Flexible Capacity.

"Many enterprises would like to host Azure within their data centers for performance, security or compliance reasons, and many service providers would like to offer Azure-compatible services for data sovereignty or other targeted services," Paul Miller, vice president of marketing for converged data center infrastructure at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), said in a statement.

Azure Stack was first announced during the inaugural Microsoft Ignite conference in 2015. Later that same year, the company released the software's system requirements, revealing the types of server hardware customers would need to furnish in order to spin up their Azure-inspired environments.

Last summer, the company changed course. Mike Neil, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Enterprise Cloud, announced on July 12, 2016 that Azure Stack would only be available "as turnkey integrated systems" from select vendors.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...