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Microsoft Azure’s Expanding Hybrid Cloud Offering A Boon For Partners

'With the introduction of Azure Stack HCI Solutions, Microsoft is enabling partners to reach a customer base that, up until now, we’ve been unable to engage with due to their strict requirements and inability to fully adopt an all-cloud model,' says David Rodriguez, director of cloud solutions at Core BTS.

Microsoft Azure’s deepening hybrid cloud portfolio – augmented with yesterday’s launch of Azure Stack HCI and other rollouts – opens up new customer opportunities for channel partners.

“With the introduction of Azure Stack HCI Solutions, Microsoft is enabling partners to reach a customer base, that up until now, we’ve been unable to engage with due to their strict requirements and inability to fully adopt an all-cloud model,” David Rodriguez, director of cloud solutions at Core BTS, a Garden City, N.Y., Microsoft cloud solutions provider with multiple Gold competencies. “With Azure Stack HCI, Core BTS can now offer current and future customers a solution which enables them to take full advantage of cloud services, leveraging their existing on-premises infrastructure.”

Customers are seeing real business value in taking a hybrid cloud, according to Julia White, Microsoft Azure’s corporate vice president.

“I see this in organizations across the globe,” White said in a blog post announcing the new hybrid offerings. “The ability for customers to embrace both public cloud and local data center, plus edge capability, is enabling customers to improve their IT agility and maximize efficiency.”

Azure Stack HCI solutions is designed for customers that want to run virtualized applications on hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). It incorporates Microsoft’s existing HCI technology into the Azure Stack to allow customers to run virtualized applications on-premises, with direct access to Azure management services including cloud-based backup, disaster recovery and monitoring.

Microsoft Azure’s hybrid strategy provides Trigent Software with a lot more control and flexibility in managing their client’s information technology infrastructure, according to Chandan Prasad Das, technical director of the Southborough, Mass.-based IT outsourcing and offshore software development company. Trigent is a Microsoft Gold certified partner with competencies including Azure, .NET, SharePoint and MS SQL.

“Based on our experience, we believe that Microsoft’s hybrid strategy works exceptionally well with our clients,” Das said. “We can assure clients of business continuity by migrating in a phased manner. While the pros outweigh the cons, it is a fact that we cannot wholly leverage native cloud features. For our clients, the fact that they opt to follow the hybrid model currently could entail more spends when they change their strategy in the future.”

Any effort to make the design, implementation, operation and management of hybrid cloud environments easier is great for channel partners and customers, said Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global, a Westborough, Mass.-based managed cloud solutions provider and Microsoft Silver partner.

“The hybrid strategy is great for partners, as it lets us leverage on-premise infrastructure and properly balance workloads to meet customer performance, configuration and budget needs,” Falcon said.

Azure Stack HCI provides the same Hyper-V-based, software-defined compute, storage and networking technologies as Azure Stack – introduced in 2017 to build and run cloud-native applications with Azure services on-premises, including disconnected locations. Azure Stack HCI includes simplified cloud access via the Azure hybrid services in Windows Admin Center.

“When considering their full application portfolio, customers want to upgrade a set of existing applications to run on modern hyper-converged infrastructure HCI for efficiency and performance gain,” White said. “And, while this is often an approach for ‘legacy’ applications, in moving to HCI, customers can now also benefit from a hybrid cloud HCI solution.”

White is hosting a virtual event on Thursday on strategies, insights and technologies to optimize hybrid cloud environments, with topics including application innovation, security and governance, migration, edge computing.

Azure Data Box Edge -- an on-premises anchor point for Azure with edge compute and network data transfer capabilities – also is available after the company previewed it at Microsoft Ignite in September.

Azure Data Box Edge provides a cloud-managed compute platform for containers at the edge. It lets customers process data at the edge and expedite machine learning workloads through a field programmable gate array powered by Azure Machine Learning and Intel Arria 10. It allows for the transfer of data via the internet to Azure in real-time for deeper analytics or model retraining at cloud scale -- or for long-term storage -- as does the Azure Data Box Gateway virtual appliance, which also was previewed in September and now is available through the Azure portal.

“Hybrid cloud is evolving from being only the integration of a data center with the public cloud, to becoming units of computing available at the edge, including even the world’s most remote destinations, working in concert with public cloud,” White said. “What’s compelling about the intelligent edge is many of the same patterns and principles for hybrid applications apply to edge applications.”

Dell EMC Tactical Microsoft Azure Stack, meanwhile, is a “ruggedized” and field-deployable product that provides Azure-consistent cloud to tactical edge environments with limited or no network connectivity, fully mobile or high portability requirements, harsh conditions and high security requirements, according to Janaka Rangama, senior principal product technologist at Dell EMC.

Microsoft Azure yesterday also announced the preview of Anomaly Detector and the availability of Azure Custom Vision, both new Azure Cognitive Services offerings.

Anomaly Detector uses artificial intelligence to detect unusual patterns or rare events in data. Developers, through a single application programming interface, can embed anomaly-detection capabilities into applications, to ensure high data accuracy and allow users to identify problems in real-time and resolve them.

Azure Custom Vision allows organizations to quickly and accurately identify objects in images. Developers can build, deploy and improve their image classifiers -- an Azure artificial intelligence service that apply labels to images according to their visual characteristics.

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