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Microsoft leans on data-center strength to get cloud edge

Mikael Ricknäs | Oct. 29, 2014
Microsoft wants to move monitoring and analytics to the cloud, automate management and take over high- performance computing work with its latest Azure products.

Microsoft wants to move monitoring and analytics to the cloud, automate management and take over high- performance computing work with its latest Azure products.

That Microsoft wants to make the most of its strong position in enterprise data centers, hoping to move customers to Azure, became even more apparent at the TechEd Europe conference in Barcelona Tuesday.

The company announced Azure Operational Insights, which extends the Azure hosted analytics, monitoring and management tools to on-premises equipment, simply by installing an agent on servers. It's possible to find missing system updates, capacity shortages and track server configuration changes, for example.

The thinking is the same as with many other cloud services: companies can get up and running quickly without having to invest in infrastructure of their own.

"It's really straightforward to get that data up [to Azure] and the amount of insight you can unlock is really powerful," said Jason Zander, corporate vice president of Microsoft Azure.

Depending on what IT staff want to do, Microsoft lets them choose between eight different Intelligence Packs with different functionality. Each pack is a collection of logic, visualization and data acquisition rules.

IT departments that want to try Operational Insights can get their hands on a preview version. The launch gives Microsoft an edge over Amazon, according to one analyst.

"Azure Operational Insights is definitely helpful for hybrid scenarios, which are ignored notoriously by Amazon Web Services," said Stefan Ried, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Amazon's dominant position in public clouds and its perceived weakness when it comes to private and hybrid clouds isn't lost on Microsoft, as well as most of Amazon's other competitors. Microsoft as well as Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Rackspace and VMware are all trying to counteract the success Amazon has seen by pushing the need for hybrid clouds.

Last week, when Amazon's Andy Jassy was asked about the company's support for hybrid clouds, he first underlined that a growing number of companies are going all-in with its public cloud. But the company also has services like Virtual Private Cloud and Direct Connect that let enterprises extend their data centers to Amazon's cloud, he said.

Microsoft also launched Azure Batch and Azure Automation at TechEd. They are meant to help Microsoft catch up with Amazon or third-party products hosted by Amazon, according to Ried.

The goal with Batch is to make Azure more big-data friendly. Available as a public preview, it offers job scheduling as a service, making it easy to run large-scale parallel and high- performance computing work in Azure. It can be used for media transcoding and rendering, image analysis and processing, financial risk calculations, engineering simulations and stress analysis, and software tests, according to a Microsoft blog post.


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