TechEd Europe 2014: Microsoft strengthens Azure hybrid cloud

Microsoft will offer private cloud users access to Azure functionality in their own datacentres

Microsoft is offering private cloud users access to Azure functionality in their own datacentres, the firm has revealed at its annual TechEd Europe conference. 

While the company will continue to compete on price, corporate vice-president of the cloud and enterprise group at Microsoft Jason Zander discussed the significance of Microsoft's hybrid cloud as a differentiator, particularly against Google and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

"Azure is our cloud platform, but people can take advantage of existing infrastrucutre as a service (IaaS) for workloads that have already been virtualised," he said during his keynote at the developer's conference in Barcelona.

Microsoft has also made Azure components available to businesses who want to operate private cloud.

From a user's perspective, Zander said an organisation can start with its own datacentre, move service provider or put certain components of its infrastructure on the Azure public cloud, using a common set of management tools and common identity management.

Microsoft also unveiled its Azure Operational Insights tool, which it said enables users to upload their own Windows server telemetry data to the cloud. Microsoft provides functionality for visualising this machine data. 

Zander said the tool also provides ready-made intelligence packs, with pre-built system admin metrics.

Part of Microsoft's hybrid cloud strategy involves simplifying hardware configuration for Azure-based private clouds. The company has partnered with Dell on an Azure appliance called Azure Cloud Platform System. 

According to Zander, the system enables users to be good-to-go as soon as they connect to the network. System integrator Capgemini is offering a private cloud Azure service called SkySight, based on using the appliance.

A recent addition to the Azure service – Azure Batch – was also revealed, which Microsoft said can enable customers to deploy massive scale-out jobs, with access to thousands of cores. These can be used to solve computationally complex problems.

CTO for Azure Mark Russinovich also demonstrated Blender – the 3D rendering software – running on Azure Batch. The demo used 37 virtual machines (VMs), running Intel processors on the Azure cloud. The job was completed in a matter of seconds, outpacing the same render process on his demo laptop.

Microsoft has also expanded the Azure Marketplace, which makes pre-configured VMs and services available to Azure users, including products from Oracle, IBM and SAP. 

Customers have access to 50 services from more than 30 partners through the marketplace, including Cloudera, Hortonworks, CommVault, CoreOS, DataStax, Nginx and Veeam.

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