A week or two ago, Microsoft made a slew of announcements all aimed at creating a consistent story around hybrid cloud services. It’s a compelling product launch, and one which, frankly, takes Microsoft which was only a year or two ago one of the key whipping boys for the cloud cognoscenti, to a place of real and credible solutions. So, what did Microsoft announce? System Center 2012, an enhanced Windows Intune, Windows Azure services for Windows Server and some other smaller offerings, taken as a whole deliver a range which according to Microsoft means’
customers can shift from managing datacenter components separately to delivering resources as a whole, including networking, storage and compute. Cloud infrastructure capabilities such as multitenancy, software-defined networking and storage virtualization are built in and ready for automated, hybrid cloud environments… customers can centrally manage cloud-based applications and resources running in their datacenters, on a hosted service provider datacenter or on Windows Azure. By integrating service provider cloud capacity and management directly into their operations, enterprises can extend their datacenter capabilities. Administrators can move virtual machines to Windows Azure and manage them from within System Center, based on their needs… Customers can also use System Center 2012 SP1 to back up their servers to Windows Azure to help protect against data loss and corruption.
A converged hybrid cloud is something that a number of traditional vendors (most notably HP) have been articulating for awhile – it’s worth having a look at what this release means in terms of the Microsoft proposition for customers looking to balance existing on-premise assets with public and private cloud utilization. Part of this convergence is the enabling of BYO strategies and the easing of the management burden across a wild array of different devices and operating systems.
The key to success delivering solutions to existing organizations with legacy assets (at least in the medium term) is the ability to deliver a consistent platform across customer’s own data centers, those of the service providers they use and the public cloud itself. A model which sees management and automation as part of an offering across varied infrastructure does much to reducing the heavy lifting for IT administrators – while it’s still a step from a completely self-service, higher-level proposition (to which, in the future at least, PaaS will be the answer) it does deliver a level of agility and flexibility to organizations that are trying to navigate a considered, gradual and de-risked IT re-engineering project.
It’s also a smart strategy for Microsoft who get to both leverage the existing use of their products within organizations, but also to provide a compelling proposition for hosting service providers who can now go to market with public cloud services that have a consistent story for prospects with existing assets. In the face of large vendors selling a largely cloud-centric product line, this provides a point of competition for hosting providers – an interim step for sure, but one which at least buys enough time until there is more clarity about what organizations long time IT makeup will look like.
There has always been a concern amongst pundits about what Microsoft would do to balance existing channels, their own direct to customer offerings and existing infrastructure assets, this new focus on a consistent converged cloud story makes sense, and should see them continue to justify their place in organization’s IT budgets.