by Thor Olavsrud

Microsoft Outlines Vision for Azure With New Services

Oct 21, 20143 mins
Cloud ComputingHybrid CloudLinux

Microsoft puts the pressure on cloud competitors Amazon and Google with a slate of new Azure offerings, including a 'cloud-in-a-box' hardware appliance geared for on-premises hybrid deployments.

At an event in San Francisco, Microsoft made a series of announcements around Microsoft Azure, further cementing its position as a core of Microsoft’s business going forward.

“We are well and truly in this mobile-first, cloud-first world,” CEO Satya Nadella says – noting that by “mobile-first,” Microsoft refers not so much to your devices as the mobility of your experience — one that follows you as you move through the day, regardless of the device you happen to be on at the time.

Nadella and Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Cloud and Enterprise at Microsoft, took the stage to outline where Microsoft Azure stands and the new offerings that it’s leaning on to differentiate itself from its cloud competitors, namely Amazon and Google.

Microsoft Cloud Platform System: ‘Cloud in a Box’

One of the biggest new plays in Microsoft’s arsenal is the new Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS), an integrated hardware and software offering that brings together Azure, Windows Server and Microsoft System Center for an “Azure-consistent cloud in a box.” Leveraging hardware from Dell and software from Microsoft, CPS is an on-premises appliance intended to simplify the deployment of hybrid cloud solutions. The partners plan to make CPS available Nov. 3.

[ News: Microsoft Goes All-In on Hybrid Cloud With Azure-in-a-Box ]

On the public cloud side, Guthrie announced that Microsoft will make Azure generally available in Australia next week. By the end of 2014, he says, Microsoft Azure will be operational in 19 regions around the world, which he notes is at least double the number of any other public cloud provider, including Amazon and Google.

Microsoft also puts pressure on those two competitors with the new G-series of virtual machines and premium storage for Azure. Powered by the latest Intel Xeon processors, the G-series is optimized for data workloads. It features up to 32 CPU cores, 450 GB RAM and a 6.5 TB local SSD. It can be combined with premium storage to provide up to 32 TB of storage per virtual machine and more than 50,000 IOPS per virtual machine with less than 1ms latency.

“Our largest G-series has more than twice the amount of memory as the largest AWS virtual machine,” Guthrie says.

Guthrie also announced the new Azure Marketplace, which will let Azure customers search for and deploy their favorite operating system, including five flavors of Linux, as well as services or applications, with just a few clicks. To round out the Azure Marketplace, Microsoft is making CoreOS, the popular container-based Linux OS, available to all Azure customers.

[ More: Microsoft Goes After Google and Amazon With Hybrid Cloud Push ]

“Microsoft loves Linux,” Nadella says. “Twenty percent of Azure is already Linux. We will always have first-class support for Linux distr[ibutions].”

Microsoft Partners With Cloudera

Microsoft also used the occasion to announce its new deep strategic partnership with Hadoop distribution vendor Cloudera. Guthrie says that Cloudera Enterprise will be Azure-certified by the end of 2014, allowing customers to deploy Cloudera clusters on Azure with just a few clicks and then connect to Microsoft Power BI to discover new insights.

“Our ecosystem is the backbone of our cloud platform, and our embrace of open source technologies is at the heart,” Guthrie says. “By helping to create an open platform powered by choice and flexibility, we are enabling the enterprises and developers of today and tomorrow to connect with each other and create new business opportunities in the mobile-first, cloud-first world.”