What the introduction of Azure Arc means for Microsoft customers and partners

November 20 2019

During the Ignite conference, Microsoft rolled out a number of new services for Azure, and top among them was Azure Arc. The offering's hybrid technology management tools will aim to promote a self-service approach to an organization's mix of Windows and Linux servers, Azure data services, and Kubernetes clusters, as well as other on-prem and cloud infrastructure.

Although Microsoft hasn't yet indicated a roadmap for the service, partners, ISVs, and customers are already looking at what Azure Arc could mean for them and where it might go from here.  MSDW spoke with companies involved in hybrid technology to get their perspectives.

Working across clouds and services

Although the cloud market is as competitive as ever, many customers end up taking a multi-cloud approach, which has helped to drive demand for interoperability and portability. According to Prem Khatri, director of operations at custom software development provider Chetu, Arc fits with multi-cloud demands.

In essence, the system allows enterprise users to consolidate and manage resources deployed across multiple platforms, be it cloud, edge or physical from one single portal.  With Azure Arc, companies are no longer beholden to one cloud-based platform or risk having data siloed when using multiple platforms that may be communicating with each other.

Consider a company that has its own internal legacy cloud program, as well as AWS for ease of access with any Amazon services they may employ. The company would need to manage two cloud resources in a more manual nature as the two may not be connected which would result in wasted time and effort. With Azure Arc, the company can manage all data and resources on both cloud networks from one centralized portal, leading to greater efficiency and faster data and resource utilization.

But in a sense, Arc is more multi-infrastructure than multi-cloud, helping companies with significant legacy infrastructure investments to connect their servers to the cloud. Brian Kelly, CEO of CloudBolt Software said:

The Azure Arc move is in response to the industry's preference for cloud management agnosticism and utilizing hybrid clouds as their primary operating platforms.

Khatri added:

To me, Azure Arc's functionality indicates that Microsoft is seeking "domination through integration" in the cloud computing and resource management space… Azure Arc essentially is a connector that will allow Microsoft to benefit from the use of [AWS and Google Cloud] in the market. 

An uncertain roadmap

For now, as a very newly introduced service, much remains unknown about the Arc offering and what path Microsoft will take with it next. Some like Khatri, who thought that the initial introduction of Azure was immature and lacking in technical support, documentation, training, and ISV-partner ecosystem support, wonder if Arc is "enterprise-ready" yet.

However, based on what we've learned so far, others see Arc as potentially  a strong offering for admins. The development community  remain unclear about the extent of development tooling in the service. "[This may leave] room and market share for smaller more agile cloud management platforms to deliver that critical functionality they need," Kelly said.

With the parallel roll-out of the rebranded—and expanded—Azure Stack, redubbed Azure Stack Hub, further integration may be on the horizon. Khatri said:

I believe we will see further integration with Microsoft products and services with Azure Arc that are designed to better help manage resources on physical servers and competitor clouds networks. Microsoft's recent unveiling of Azure Stack Edge, with new hardware appliances and AI-enabled edge applications, leads me to think that future Azure programs will incorporate even more advanced AI solutions into the Arc platform.  

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About Eamon McCarthy Earls

As the assistant editor at MSDynamicsWorld.com and MSCloudNews.com, Eamon helps to oversee editorial content on the site and supports site management and strategy. He can be reached at eearls@msdynamicsworld.com.

Before joining MSDynamicsWorld.com, Eamon was editor for SearchNetworking.com at TechTarget, where he covered networking technology, IoT, and cybersecurity. He is also the author of multiple books and previously contributed to publications such as the Boston Globe, Milford Daily News, and DefenceWeb.

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