Microsoft has announced Azure Stack. Described as an "extension" to Azure, it will give enterprise customers the option to keep Azure workloads and data on-premises. Targeting enterprise customers, Azure Stack is also aimed at service providers and SIs that want to deliver hosted private clouds that are fully interoperable with Microsoft's cloud.
It has been a long time since Microsoft first previewed Azure Stack, its on-premises version of the Azure cloud. Microsoft wanted to bring the dynamic services of Azure to enterprise customers that need to keep workloads and data in their own data centers or on-premises facilities for whatever reason – sometimes compliance and regulatory reasons, but often because they simply feel more comfortable knowing they can "see" where their workloads and data are located. As Ovum has often repeated, the vast majority of enterprise customers not only have a hybrid cloud strategy today but expect to have one for years to come.
While Azure Stack is primarily presented as an on-premises private cloud stack for enterprise customers, it will also be adopted by service providers, managed service providers (MSPs), and systems integrators (SIs) that want to deliver their own fully compatible and interoperable Azure services. This should ultimately save them both time and money in the deployment and delivery of Azure-compatible services to their customers. It will be supported through the Azure Cloud Solution Partner program.
Microsoft has worked with hardware OEMs to develop fully integrated hardware/cloud platforms, which will initially be available from Dell EMC, HPE, and Lenovo in September 2017, with Cisco and Huawei to follow. Microsoft considers the integrated delivery with the OEMs as essential if customers are to deploy a truly dynamic cloud. Too often private cloud deployments have failed to deliver the same experience as public clouds, because customers (including MSPs and SIs) have failed to update and upgrade components of their cloud infrastructure in sync to ensure that the "integrated experience" of dynamic cloud is maintained.
Azure Stack won't support all the services of the Azure public cloud, and the subset of PaaS and IaaS services is inevitably limited. Service providers aren't going to be able to build out massively scalable clouds to compete with the public Azure on the back of Azure Stack. However, where they need to deliver edge-of-the-network, IoT-ready, on-premises, or "disconnected" private clouds (e.g., on ships, planes, or factory floors), Azure Stack should reduce deployment times and help deliver the dynamic cloud experience customers are looking for. The "gotcha" is that the onus will be on the service providers to plan capacity and keep the Azure Stack infrastructure up to date. We believe it will take a few iterations of the update cycle for some of them to get up to speed and to hone the "infrastructure-as-code" skills they'll need to deliver a truly dynamic cloud experience to their private cloud customers.
Ovum Cloud Service Provider Update: Microsoft Azure, TE0005-000921 (March 2017)
SWOT Assessment: Microsoft Azure, IT0022-000942 (May 2017)
Ian Brown, Senior Analyst, Networks and Cloud Services
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