Microsoft Mobile-First Cloud Strategy: Improved Tech, More Partners

Microsoft on Monday signaled its readiness to make the cloud a central part of its strategy with a number of enhancements and partnerships it hopes will help make the Microsoft Cloud an important part of customers' public, private and hybrid cloud strategies.

That strategy includes enhancements to the Microsoft Cloud including new virtual machine and storage instances, an integrated platform with Dell hardware, support for CoreOS Linux solutions, a new Azure Marketplace for deploying third-party applications and a new relationship with Cloudera to make using Hadoop big data on the cloud as easy as running an Excel spreadsheet.

The moves stem from the fact that customers are in a mobile-first cloud world, specifically in terms of how they use the cloud, said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during a Monday web-based presentation on the Microsoft Cloud news.

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"We want to empower any individual and any organization to be able to thrive in the mobile-first world. ... The Microsoft Cloud is the most complete offering that empowers every business across every industry across every country," Nadella said.

Microsoft has in the last 12 months released over 300 new features and services including machine learning and Database-as-a-Service for the Microsoft Cloud, said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of cloud and enterprise at Microsoft.

The company is seeing over 10,000 new customers sign on with Azure every week, and is currently hosting over 1.2 million SQL databases and over 30 trillion objects on Azure, Guthrie said during the Microsoft Cloud presentation.

To better serve those customers, Microsoft is expanding its scale with the addition of two new Microsoft cloud regions in Australia, giving it 19 Azure regions around the world. That's more than twice the number of Amazon regions and more than six times the number of Google regions, Guthrie said.

"This hyper-scale footprint delivers immense scale economics which allows us to continually cut prices," he said. "It also gives customers the ability to instantly scale up and down solutions with confidence anywhere around the world."

Microsoft also introduced its new G family virtual machines for the cloud. The G family virtual machines were optimized for data workloads with up to 32 Intel Xeon CPU cores, 450 GBs RAM and over 6.5 TBs of local SSD storage, according to Guthrie.

NEXT: New VMs And Storage, Plus A Dell Hardware Appliance Relationship

"They provide the largest virtual machine sizes in the public cloud," Guthrie said. "To put it in some perspective, our largest G-series has more than twice the amount of memory of the latest AWS virtual machine, and four times the memory of the largest Google Virtual Compute virtual machine."

The G-series was a new follow-on to the introduction last month of the D-series virtual machine instances, which featured increased performance and storage and the first support for SSDs.

To go with the new virtual machines, Guthrie also unveiled a premium storage offering for Azure that allows up to 32 TBs of storage and over 50,000 IOPS per virtual machine, all with less than 1 millisecond of read latency.

"The combination of the new virtual machine sizes together with the premium storage offering delivers, really, an unparalleled degree of performance in the cloud," he said. "Customers have never before been able to stand up this kind of power literally in seconds with just a button click. And it's gonna enable even more workloads, including workloads that have not yet been virtualized and need to run on bare metal hardware, to not only run in a virtualized environment, but do so in the cloud with much greater economic savings and with much more agility."

Microsoft is also the only cloud provider to offer a consistent user experience across data center, public cloud and private cloud users, Guthrie said.

This now includes a common identity security solution using Azure Active Directory. "(This allows customers) to span a single security identity architecture across both their on-premise applications as well as the devices and applications they host in the cloud," he said.

Also new is the Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS) which integrates Azure, Windows Server and Microsoft System Center with Dell hardware to deliver what Microsoft called an "Azure-consistent cloud in a box."

The Microsoft CPS is available to enterprise and cloud services providers, Guthrie said. It delivers a consistent Azure management, APIs, hypervisor and core features like IaaS and web-based applications, to give enterprises a step into the cloud with increased control over their infrastructure solutions that work within their own data centers and the cloud, he said.

That software was previously available as a download for customers to run on their own hardware, he said.

NEXT: Microsoft Expands Dell, Cloudera Relationships

Sam Greenblatt, CTO for Dell's Enterprise Division, wrote in a Monday blog post that the Microsoft CPS aims to reduce the complexity of designing, building, scaling and supporting home-grown data center architectures.

"CPS is pre-validated, ready-to-run, Azure-consistent cloud infrastructure delivered to the data center with the speed, ease and assurance of an efficient Dell appliance. With CPS, a large-scale, validated cloud platform is at your fingertips. That makes it easier than ever for customers to shift focus from infrastructure configuration and coordination to business advancement and value," Greenblatt wrote.

Microsoft CPS is slated to be available for purchase Nov. 3.

Microsoft, which last week said it will support Docker to enable container-based applications including Linux and Windows server applications to run more efficiently, on Monday unveiled support for a CoreOS container-optimized Linux solution.

"Satya mentioned we love Linux," he said. "CoreOS is in fact the fifth Linux distribution we now offer on Azure with enterprise support."

Microsoft on Monday unveiled the Azure Marketplace to make it easier for customers to run applications from startups and ISVs in the cloud.

"It provides a host of VMs [virtual machines], apps and services that any customer will be able to easily browse, purchase and, for the ISVs and the startups building them, monetize them," Guthrie said.

One partner in the new Azure Marketplace is Cloudera, which is providing its Hadoop big data solution through Microsoft Azure.

Mike Olson, chief strategy officer of Cloudera, demonstrated at the Microsoft cloud briefing how it was possible to set up a 90-core instance of Cloudera with a single click and how easy it is to set policies and service-level agreements with Cloudera's native tools.

Olson said customers can also now connect Microsoft Excel to Cloudera to easily extract, store and run other big data operations live on Cloudera data.

"If we want to realize the value of big data, we have to run where the data is," he said.

While Larry Velez, CTO and founder of Sinu, a New York-based MSP and Microsoft partner, has not had a chance to review all the additions to the Microsoft Cloud, he said improving the integration between the Microsoft Cloud and other cloud and non-cloud environment is a key requirement of many of his company's SMB customers.

Velez cited the ability to manage identity via the Microsoft cloud across other platforms for the convenience it offers to SMBs.

"For now, Active Directory is the standard for SMBs," Velez told CRN. "But customers want to take their center of work outside their own systems and to the cloud. So many customers have key systems that are no longer on-site. Mobility is now becoming more important than security. Everybody wants to work on their MacBook Air or Surface 3 from anywhere."