Meet Azure Arc, a Microsoft platform for those that want a bit of everything

New tools suggest the biggest shift in Azure strategy yet

Microsoft kicked off its Ignite conference this week with the reveal of its Azure Arc platform, a set of tools designed to simplify the management of deployments across multiple clouds, on-premises, and edge.

The platform also allows for Azure services and management tools to be expanded to new infrastructures, including Linux and Windows Server, as well as all Kubernetes clusters spread across multiple cloud types.

The idea is to create a single, centralised hub so that users can apply existing tools, such as Azure Resource Manager, Azure Shell, Azure Portal, Azure API, as well as its policy and security protocols, across all deployments. This effectively allows customers to run Azure services irrespective of where the deployment resides.

The move symbolises Microsoft's effort to accommodate customers that are reluctant, or unable, to become entirely hybrid by allowing them to be more flexible in how they use Azure tools. It also extends many of the benefits of cloud to those parts of a business still reliant on on-premises infrastructure or private data centres, which can now be plugged into Azure.

Specifically, the Azure Portal tool within Arc will give customers a unified view of all Azure data services running across all on-premises and cloud deployments, and the Azure Kubernetes Service can be used to spin up new clusters if they run out of on-premise capacity, the company claims.

What will perhaps matter most is that this expanded availability will also allow customers to make use of all the security and compliance tools integrated into Azure, including controlled access and company policy enforcement.

"With Azure Arc, and with it, the arrival of multi-cloud management in Azure, we are now seeing perhaps the biggest shift yet in Azure's strategic evolution," argues Nick McQuire, VP and head of Enterprise and Artificial Intelligence Research at CCS. "It means that Microsoft is becoming more attentive to customer needs, but it is also an indication that battlelines of competition in cloud are shifting towards managing the control pane."

"In embracing hybrid multi-cloud, Azure Arc also validates the big investments made by key competitors over the past 12-18 months most notably IBM's acquisition of Red Hat and Google Cloud's Anthos. The stage is set for AWS to follow suit next month at reinvent."

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