With Azure Arc, Microsoft aims to go beyond traditional hybrid cloud – with Anthos and Outposts for company

James has more than a decade of experience as a tech journalist, writer and editor, and served as Editor in Chief of TechForge Media between 2017 and 2021. James was named as one of the top 20 UK technology influencers by Tyto, and has also been cited by Onalytica, Feedspot and Zsah as an influential cloud computing writer.

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Microsoft’s most eye-catching announcement at MS Ignite earlier this week was around Azure Arc which, similar to AWS Outposts and Google Anthos, allows Azure to run and be run on its hyperscale rivals.

The rationale, as the company has put it in the press materials, was to go beyond the usual definitions of hybrid cloud in an area which is rapidly becoming more than table stakes for the hyperscalers. Mark Russinovich, Azure CTO, told ZDnet that it was what the company is considering as ‘hybrid 2.0.’

“Enterprises rely on a hybrid technology approach to take advantage of their on-premises investment and, at the same time, utilise cloud innovation,” Julia White, Azure corporate vice president, wrote in a blog post. “As more business operations and applications expand to include edge devices and multiple clouds, hybrid capabilities must enable apps to run seamlessly across on-premises, multi-cloud and edge devices.

“Without coherence across these environments, cost and complexity grow exponentially,” added White. “Today, we take a significant leap forward to enable customers to move from just hybrid cloud to truly deliver innovation anywhere with Azure.”

First up on the list of services to go into Arc are Kubernetes and Azure SQL Analytics. Customers will now ‘have the flexibility to deploy Azure SQL Database and Azure Database for PostgreSQL Hyperscale where they need it on any Kubernetes cluster’, as the company puts it.

While the three hyperscalers now have options where services can be deployed on different clouds, don’t imagine for a moment that they are all arm-in-arm walking into the sunset singing Kumbaya. At the time of VMworld in August – VMware having extensive partnerships with the three biggest clouds – Pivot3 CMO Bruce Milne noted the ‘tension’ in the air.

“There’s an obvious strategic tension in VMware’s collaboration with the hyperscale cloud providers, but for now it appears they’ve agreed to a collaborative détente,” said Milne. “Watch this space because that friction is sure to generate sparks eventually.”

Nick McQuire, VP enterprise at CCS Insight, noted the changes Microsoft had made, but with a caveat.

“Over 60% of enterprises use multiple clouds and a mix of on-premises and public cloud computing in their businesses so providing a single control pane, consistent management and security across this multi-dimensional environment is now becoming the new rules of engagement in the cloud wars,” said McQuire. “It means that Microsoft is becoming more attentive to customer needs, but it is also an indication that battle lines of competition in cloud are shifting towards managing the control pane.

“With the arrival of multi-cloud management in Azure, we are now seeing perhaps the biggest shift yet in Azure’s strategic evolution.”

Perhaps the most comprehensive analysis was from regular Forbes contributor Janakiram MSV. Alongside noting the changes to the control plane, Janakiram noted where Microsoft is looking in terms of customer focus. “With Azure Arc, Microsoft is enabling enterprises with legacy infrastructure to join the hybrid cloud bandwagon,” he wrote. “Microsoft is not alienating customers running legacy hardware and VMs from the hybrid cloud. VMs are treated as first-class citizens in the world of Azure Arc.”

“Microsoft’s hybrid strategy based on Azure Arc and Azure Stack looks compelling and convincing,” Janakiram added. “Azure Arc’s key differentiation lies in the balance between traditional, VM-based workloads and modern containerised workloads that operate in the same context of the hybrid and multi-cloud environments.”

You can find out more about Azure Arc by visiting here.

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