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Protocol | Enterprise

Microsoft just made five more Azure services multicloud-friendly

Using Kubernetes and Azure Arc, Microsoft customers will be able to run several existing Azure services — including its serverless computing tool — on their own servers or other clouds.

Satya Nadella is expected to make cloud news at Microsoft’s Build conference Tuesday.

Satya Nadella is expected to make cloud news at Microsoft's Build conference Tuesday.

Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Microsoft has figured out a way to let its hybrid cloud customers play with some of the bells and whistles previously available only on its public cloud.

Azure customers will be able to run five Azure application services anywhere they like — including AWS and Google Cloud — through Kubernetes and Azure Arc, Microsoft plans to announce Tuesday at its Build developer conference. "Any CNCF-conformant Kubernetes cluster connected through Azure Arc is now a supported deployment target for Azure application services," Microsoft's Gabe Monroy, vice president of Azure Developer Experience, wrote in a draft blog post reviewed by Protocol

Azure Arc is a hybrid cloud management service that allows customers to deploy and manage applications based around Azure services on their own servers or other cloud providers. It's an extension of Azure Stack, which was one of the first services from a major cloud provider to get traction among companies looking for hybrid cloud options.

Microsoft is unique among the Big Three cloud providers in that it has a set of longstanding customers that once built data centers, even entire businesses, around Windows Server applications. Those customers value the investments they've made in those data centers and applications, but they understand they can't afford to fall too far behind competitors who are building applications around newer cloud services.

To be "cloud native," as in the Cloud Native Computing Foundation referenced by Monroy, is to embrace a different way of building software than what was in vogue during the data center era. Businesses interested in cloud computing aren't motivated purely by ditching their servers; they're also attracted to more flexible, and in some cases, more powerful, tools for developing software.

Extending the five services — Azure App Service, Azure Functions, Azure Logic Apps, Azure Event Grid and Azure API Management — will allow those customers to take advantage of some of the more-advanced concepts enabled by cloud computing without having to give up their existing investments. It also removes part of the lock-in fear when building around serverless computing concepts like Azure Functions, in that you'd now be able to run those applications on your own hardware if you'd like.

Of course, you're still locked into Microsoft's software tool should you choose to build applications this way, but that's a trade-off some companies are willing to make. Microsoft said the new capabilities will be available as a preview as of Tuesday, with general availability to follow at a later date.

Extending cloud services into on-premises data centers and even other clouds has been embraced by all of the three major U.S. cloud providers at this point. Both Google and AWS have introduced multicloud services that allow their customers to manage applications on competing clouds, usually with Kubernetes as the linking technology.

Later at Build, which runs through Thursday, Microsoft plans to show off a collection of AI tools that developers can use to build machine-learning models more quickly and easily, following Google's announcement of Vertex AI at Google I/O last week. It will also introduce new enhancements to its Cosmos DB database, and preview the next version of Visual Studio, its popular software development tool.
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