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Azure Expands Management Capabilities with New Azure Arc

One of the most exciting announcements to come out of this week’s Microsoft Ignite event is the new cross-infrastructure management service Azure Arc. Announced during Satya Nadella’s keynote, and a recurring theme throughout the conference, Azure Arc paves the way for what many are calling Microsoft’s Hybrid 2.0 Strategy.

Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Azure, Julia White, said of the news, “Today, we take a significant leap forward to enable customers to move from just hybrid cloud to truly deliver innovation anywhere with Azure.”

This is a huge announcement for Azure and will have impact across its products and beyond. Arc puts more control in the hands of IT teams and empowers them to choose tools based on business needs.

Here, we’ll dive into the elements of Azure Arc that have the biggest impact for digital enterprises.

Satya Nadella on stage announcing Azure Arc

(source: Microsoft)

Azure Management Across Infrastructures

Azure Arc is designed to extend Azure management across any infrastructure. This could mean workloads running in multiple clouds such as Azure, AWS, and Google, workloads running on-premises in Azure Stack or other hardware, as well as services running at the edge. Consider all of the services currently running in the cloud and on-premises across organizations today—Kubernetes Clusters, Data Services, Windows, and Linux Servers, just to touch the tip of the iceberg. These could all be managed from within Arc.

This means a multitude of uses and capabilities across tools and environments, including:

  • Organizing, governing, and enforcing policy across environments with a control plane hosted within Azure.
  • Automating database management tasks for management at scale. Arc’s out-of the-box capabilities include: provisioning patching, setting up HA, backup-restore, and on-demand elastic scale.
  • Deploying and managing Kubernetes apps at scale and across different environments using a variety of DevOps techniques. Apps could be deployed in clouds outside of Azure or in Kubernetes clusters on-premises.
  • Enabling the extension of advanced data security, Azure backup, monitoring, role-based access control and Azure policies for databases running in your environment.
Azure Arc management diagram

(source: Microsoft)

Run Data Services Anywhere

One of the most interesting parts of Arc is the ability to “run data services anywhere” by bringing data services to any infrastructure. Microsoft states that Arc will offer, “the latest innovation, cloud benefits, unified management, and unmatched security across your hybrid infrastructure.”

There are also notable SQL implications. Currently Azure SQL Database and Azure Database for PostgreSQL Hyperscale are available for preview on Azure Arc, with more Azure data services slated to come.

It will be interesting to test deployments of these data services and to see how quickly Microsoft rolls out additional options. The improvement in SQL management to services Microsoft already provides in Azure (which has been very well received by customers) to other environments is a fantastic addition and is sure to further simplify operations.

Azure Arc data controller diagram

(source: Microsoft)

Unified Management

Azure Arc effectively extends the Azure Resource Manager model to support Hybrid environments by providing a new “unified management” experience. This has the potential for controlling a wide list of controls and tools, not limited to:

  • Access and Security
    • RBAC controls
    • Resource locks
  • Organization and inventory
    • Search
    • Indexing
    • Groups
    • Tagging
  • Governance and Compliance
    • Logs
    • Policy
    • Blueprints
  • Local Management Tools
    • Azure Data Studio
    • K8s Native Tools
    • Windows Admin Center
    • Systems Center
Azure management diagram

(source: Microsoft)

In addition, by extending the ARM model, it will allow much easier integration with existing automation tools. If users can define an Azure policy that extends to AWS, the use of config rules may no longer be necessary. This could drastically simplify governance, using policies written in a single template, spanning across clouds.

Growing Shift to SaaS-Based Cloud Management Tools

We’ve seen a growing shift with cloud management tools moving into a SaaS type model. The introduction of Arc further reinforces this and, at the same time, raises more questions:

  • How will tools like ServiceNow integrate?
  • How do my NOC playbooks adjust to incorporate the Arc management plane?
  • How will this work with VMware and the services on their roadmap?
  • How does this compare with Google Anthos?
  • Could Arc be utilized to deploy cloud resources using decision criteria based on the current pricing of the target public cloud?
  • Will we have the ability to extend management capabilities on-premises through a proxy server?

Only the Beginning of Arc’s Capabilities

A deeper dive into Arc is necessary in order to truly reveal the matrix of services it will allow businesses to consume through the Arc plane.

Going back to Julia’s statement, I believe we need to continue to evolve our thinking around hybrid and multi-cloud to “truly deliver innovation anywhere.” There is potential in Azure Arc to deliver business value and drive digital transformation for enterprises.

If you’re interested in digging deeper into Microsoft’s announcement, this video from Ignite has a fantastic demonstration of bringing an HP Superdome Flex rack under Arc management. It also showcases Arc’s fantastic UI.

And if you’d like to learn more about AHEAD’s approach to cloud, check out this webinar on Recalibrating Your Public Cloud Journey with our CTO Eric Kaplan and Chief Architect Nick Colyer. The webinar explores topics including cloud operating models, enterprise skills, and the challenges of multi-cloud.

Watch this space — it’s going to be an exciting ride!