Microsoft looks to empower IT in the cloud

At Ignite conference, Microsoft unveils the Azure Stack software collection

Microsoft is working to help its enterprise customers move their data, apps and operations to the cloud – specifically the hybrid cloud.

At its first Ignite conference in Chicago today, the company unveiled Microsoft Azure Stack, a collection of the company's hyper-scale public cloud technologies that it uses for its own data centers.

The new Azure Stack software makes both the Azure infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) software available so enterprises can use it in their own on-premises clouds.

Microsoft also took the wraps off what it's calling the Microsoft Operations Management Suite, a group of hybrid tools and software focused on managing enterprises' workloads, regardless of where they are – on the Azure platform, Amazon Web Services, Linux, VMWAre, Windows Server or OpenStack.

"When we talk about cloud first, it is the cloud backend for all of your devices, all of your data," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a keynote speech. "We will consume data at unprecedented levels … Security, privacy, regulation all matter in the cloud. We are building the intelligent cloud. At the core of that is the backend infrastructure that drives all of your enterprise mobility needs, the agility you need to have new value and new applications."

This isn't Microsoft's first push into the hybrid cloud arena.

Last October, the company made several cloud computing announcements aimed at gaining a foothold in the hybrid cloud space and pushing back against competitors like AWS and Google.

The cloud tools Microsoft spoke about are focused on giving enterprises the flexibility to easily deploy a private, public or hybrid cloud.

"With the Azure Stack, you deploy your cloud – whether it's private, public or hybrid – the same way," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "A lot of enterprises will want to have some apps and data on premise and some in the public cloud. The Stack enables them to have both but built with one, not two constructs."

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said businesses will benefit from having unified tools and platforms.

"Microsoft uses Azure to offer its customers its own hosted IaaS and PaaS platforms," Gottheil said. "This is useful, but it really sings when your applications use resources in various places -- on premise and in the cloud. Now, you have a fairly uniform infrastructure and you can put what you want where you want."

Azure was initially designed for hybrid platforms, but these new changes make it easier for CIOs not to worry about where their applications or data reside.

Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst, said Microsoft's announcements are evolutionary, not revolutionary. They're also steps in the right direction for both Microsoft and for the cloud market, he said.

"This is good and strong news from Microsoft, as they grow along with competitors in the cloud space," Kagan added. "This is an exciting time… The hybrid cloud system is one of the key areas companies are pursuing. That means providers like Microsoft have to make it easier to use. Microsoft took a big step in that direction with this announcement and that's good."

Microsoft also has a lot of cloud competitors, including IBM, AWS and Google, Kagan said.That means to stay competitive, Microsoft will have to continue to push hard in this market.

"Just remember," he added, "this is just one step in a very long journey."

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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