While only a preview, Microsoft's recent announcement of Linux support for Azure Fabric Service demonstrates Microsoft's desire to have Azure everywhere. From AzureStack to their functions-based platform, Azure Fabric Services, Microsoft is building private versions of their Azure-based service.
However, the idea isn't to create standalone private clouds. Microsoft has an eye on hybrid IT, and Microsoft isn't alone in developing a platform for a consistent hybrid cloud experience.
Azure Fabric Service
Azure Fabric Service is Microsoft's strategy to enable microservices application architecture. Instead of developing the underlying infrastructure, developers focus on the functionality of the code. The Azure Fabric Service runs on top of a server OS. Fabric Service on Linux is Microsoft's attempt to meet customers where they operate.
There are a couple of points that are notable about Microsoft's move. The first is that Microsoft is giving customers an option for running serverless workloads on-premises. Much of the attention for serverless focuses on AWS Lambda. I'm not aware of any Lambda-compatible on-premises solution. So, if customers want a hybrid functions-based platform, Lambda isn't an option. The second notable point is the hybrid nature of the platform.
During the VMware-sponsored network summit FutureNet, Verizon spoke of their journey to the cloud. Verizon accepts the fact that their IT organization will consist of hybrid infrastructure for years to come. Verizon takes a two-pronged approach to IT infrastructure. New microservice-based applications are born in the cloud. Traditional applications remain in their private data centers. Verizon continually re-evaluates where applications are best hosted.
While not specifically speaking to Microsoft Azure, Verizon's journey to the cloud is indicative of the challenge that is faced by most organizations. Private data centers remain a compelling infrastructure option for the majority of enterprise workloads. As applications architecture matures to include serverless-based computing, IT organizations require similar platforms on-premises.
Dell Technologies is counting on the hybrid use case as a way to continue to expand their business. Dell Technologies is an initial partner with Microsoft in AzureStack. The goal of AzureStack is to extend Azure into the private data center seamlessly. Azure Fabric Service provides yet another Azure feature on-premises. Also, Dell-controlled VMware announced their Cloud Foundation solution as part of VMworld.
Cloud Foundation takes a VM-centric approach to hybrid cloud. Cloud Foundation extends the private VMware-based, software-defined data center (SDDC) to IBM's Softlayer cloud. Between AzureStack and Cloud Foundation, Dell Technologies has the hybrid cloud use cases covered. Customers wanting to take advantage of cloud APIs can leverage Azure and AzureStack built on Dell Technologies' hardware. Customers wanting to simply check the cloud box can extend their legacy infrastructure into IBM's Softlayer running VMware vSphere.
The abstraction of the data center
Verizon's cloud journey is representative of what many organizations will encounter. The hybrid cloud market is quickly maturing, and the data center is now abstracted. The idea of infrastructure is no longer physical components. Enterprise data center managers need to focus on services. Data center managers should focus on what services to offer on-premises and which off-premises.
Most importantly, the integration of on-premises and off-premises solutions becomes the challenge. Microsoft's Azure Fabric Service on Linux is an indication of the importance of this integration.
- Serverless computing: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- Why AWS Lambda could be the worst thing to happen to open source (TechRepublic)
- Microsoft readies public preview of its Service Fabric microservices platform on Linux (ZDNet)
- Microsoft builds on Azure Blockchain as a Service with Project Bletchley (ZDNet)
- Hybrid infrastructure rising for EUC deployments, says new VMware report (TechRepublic)
Keith Townsend is a technology management consultant with more than 15 years of related experience designing, implementing, and managing data center technologies. His areas of expertise include virtualization, networking, and storage solutions for Fortune 500 organizations. He holds a BA in computing and a MS in information technology from DePaul University.