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January 27, 2016updated 30 Aug 2016 3:17pm

How Microsoft plans to beat cloud rivals AWS & Google with Azure Stack

News: Hybrid cloud approach could be a key differentiator for Microsoft.

By James Nunns

Microsoft is pushing forward in its hybrid cloud strategy with its first technical preview of Microsoft Azure Stack.

The Azure Stack was introduced back in May 2015 and will be a major hybrid cloud play for the company as it looks to expand from being just a public cloud provider to one that brings in business from private deployments, in addition to appealing to the on-premise software market.

This is an area where both AWS and Google, Azure’s main public cloud competitors, offer little. So by enabling Azure to run in on-premise data centres, Microsoft will be giving developers that work on Azure in the public cloud an opportunity to be useful in the private cloud world as well.

Mike Neil, Corporate Vice President, Enterprise Cloud, Microsoft said: "Only Microsoft is able to deliver on this need in a manner where the platform is proven in hyper-scale public cloud and extended to private and hosted clouds."

Microsoft has been increasing its efforts in the hybrid world lately, with its partnership with HPE proving to be a building block for hybrid offerings to connect to other clouds, which prevents vendor lock in.

The reason that the company is making such a move in the area is because, for starters, that’s where it and other companies such as HPE, VMware and Red Hat feel the market is heading.

Microsoft hopes that offering a consistent hybrid cloud platform will be the real differentiator, so businesses won’t have one vendor supplying the private cloud part and a different vendor providing the public cloud. This can lead to integration complexities and potentially impact the productivity of developers.

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The company said in its blog post that application developers will be able to use a ‘write once, deploy to Azure or Azure Stack’ approach. This will be achieved by using APIs that are identical to Microsoft Azure, with the creation of applications based on open source or .NET technology able to run on either on-premise or public cloud.

Additional benefits could also appeal to IT professionals through the use of management and automation tools that will give them oversight into the transformation of on-premise data centre resources into Azure IaaS/PaaS services.

One of the key benefits of going down the hybrid route is that businesses are able to handle regulation, data sovereignty, customisation and latency issues.

Neil said: "Azure Stack enables that by giving businesses the freedom to decide where applications and workloads reside without being constrained by technology."

Microsoft will be aiming to make the relationship between on-premise and public cloud as seamless as possible so that developers and IT professionals won’t get bogged down with technical issues.

The company was keen to stress in its blog post that it is the, "only company that can bring the full power of a true hybrid cloud platform," said Neil.

Microsoft isn’t the only vendor trying to deliver technology in this way; OpenStack for example has a similar approach with using the same code to build both on-premise and public connections.

Where it differs is that OpenStack is an industry wide effort while Azure Stack is proprietary, so Microsoft will have to make big efforts to be compatible to other clouds in order to avoid the threat of vendor lock in that could scare users away.

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