Why Microsoft’s Azure Stack is a big deal in the cloud

Amazon and Google don't have anything like it

Microsoft today announced a technical preview of Azure Stack – a product designed to be an on-premises equivalent to the company's IaaS public cloud.

When used in conjunction with the public cloud, it’s meant to create a hybrid cloud that runs on the same software. This is a big deal for the IaaS cloud world. Why? Because Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform don’t have anything like it.

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AWS and Google are focusing on a public cloud-first strategy. Microsoft is taking a hybrid approach. Microsoft isn’t alone in doing that. VMware has a hybrid strategy, as does IBM and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Those with a hybrid cloud strategy sell both public cloud services and private cloud managers that intergrate with one another. 

But in shorthand, the IaaS market is dominated by three big vendors: AWS, Microsoft and Google. Microsoft is the only one with something like Azure Stack.

That’s important because not every workload is going to the public cloud. Amazon executives say that in “the fullness of time” most workloads will be in the public cloud. They don’t want to slow thee exponential growth of their public cloud by giving customers an on-premises private cloud option. Microsoft sees an opening in this market and is taking advantage.

microsoft logo REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

So what does Azure Stack do? Details are still fuzzy. Here’s what we do know: Azure Stack will run on standardized hardware that will likely need some specific requirements. Users will be able to control Azure Stack and Azure public cloud through a common portal. You can buy it and run it yourself from Microsoft, or a partner, or use it as a managed service. “The application model is based on Azure Resource Manager, which enables developers to take the same declarative approach to applications, regardless of whether they run on Azure or Azure Stack,” Microsoft says in a blog post. Translation: Developers can (theoretically) build an app once and it will be able to run in the private or public cloud.

Stay tuned for more details about how Azure Stack is deployed, what it’s made of and what features it has. Some of those questions could be answered during a webcast with two of Azure’s executives on Feb. 3.

For now, Microsoft is looking to stake its claim in the hybrid cloud management world in an area its two top competitors are ignoring.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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