Azure Advancements Announced at Microsoft Inspire 2018

Last week, Microsoft Inspire took place, which meant that Microsoft made a lot of new product announcements regarding the Azure cloud. In general, Microsoft is both looking up and trying to catch up to Amazon from a market share perspective while trying to keep its current #2 place in the Infrastructure as a Service world ahead of rapidly growing Google Cloud Platform as well as IBM and Oracle.  Microsoft Azure is generally regarded as a market-leading cloud platform, along with Amazon, that provides storage, computing, and security and is moving towards analytics, networking, replication, hybrid synchronization, and blockchain support.

Key functionalities that Microsoft has announced include:

1) general availability for Azure File Sync, which is especially important for Microsoft shops seeking to integrate cloud backups with their existing on-premises environments,

2) the availability of Corda, Microsoft’s blockchain ledger, on the Azure Marketplace to accelerate deployment,

3) Azure Service Fabric, a platform to manage microservices and containerized applications which is now available in public preview

These products show the continuing evolution of Azure from core infrastructure platforms to become connectivity and service platforms as well.Amalgam is also tracking the uptake of Azure’s new offerings in Virtual WAN, Firewall, and Data Box Disk products as well, which are replies to Amazon’s similar products in networking, security, and on-prem storage transfer. The effective transfer of data is a new battleground in the world of cloud as data transfer, replication, duplication, and governance in transit have become an increasingly important overlay to enable the storage and compute that Infrastructure as a Service is primarily known for.

The enterprise cloud market is extremely dynamic and still growing rapidly. Microsoft Azure has been growing over 90% per year, which speaks to the extreme demand for enterprise cloud services. That said, Microsoft faces challenges between the sheer size and scale of Amazon and Google, IBM’s role as a strong hybrid cloud and services provider, Oracle’s enterprise knowledge as they develop their cloud infrastructure and platforms, as well as the potential for the likes of Facebook, telecom service providers, and other massively scaled application and infrastructure providers to compete in this market.

One challenge Microsoft has yet to fully crack is how to convert Office clients to Azure. Although Microsoft has made inroads, Office365 and Azure services still have room for additional integration in-line with the plug-ins and ecosystem that surrounds Office productivity tools. This would allow Microsoft to improve conversion of its SaaS customer base just as it has successfully moved .NET and Linux audiences to Azure. As Microsoft continues to make Azure services more available for the non-developer and business analyst community, Microsoft still has a massive opportunity to continue growing its cloud services over time and as the enterprise cloud market, as a whole, doubles over the next three years.

Amalgam’s key recommendation for forward-facing companies on the Azure cloud is to set up Azure Service Fabric so that they can have an environment to work with the shared data of blockchain and to effectively manage the targeted workloads and functions within containers and microservices. Compare Azure Service Fabric with Amazon Lambda to see which works better in your application orchestration environment.

In addition, Corda provides a quick starting point for blockchain services for Microsoft users with the free trial currently available on the Azure Marketplace. This provides a simple entry point to work with a digital ledger and trial data to see which transactions in your organization may be best suited to setting up a trusted ledger environment.

(Note: for more information on best practices in container management, check out Research Fellow Tom Petrocelli’s work on Infrastructure as Code and Seven Decision Points When Considering Containers.)

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