Taking the Azure Pack for a spin: Hybridize your cloud
Managing independent developers inside an organization is always going to be a trial. It’s too easy for them to go outside the firewall to a cloud service to build and deploy their apps. What’s needed is a way of making things inside the data center as easy to use, and as attractive to developers as those external services.
At TechEd North America back in June, Microsoft took the wraps off its Blue wave of servers, including its answer to the question of how to build and run applications on your own private cloud that run on the public Platform as a Service cloud: the Azure Pack. With the same portal UI as the cloud Azure services, the Azure Pack means you can build and run your code locally, or migrate it to the public cloud – and back again. It’s also a free download, making it easy to justify deploying.
We spoke to Brad Anderson, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President Windows Server and System Center, recently about the Azure Pack. He described it as “The work we have been doing to deliver consistency across the cloud, giving developers the ability to write an app and run it hosted in the public cloud.” He also pointed out that the two-way nature of the Azure Pack gave it flexibility that customers were finding important. “That there’s no cloud lock-in has resonated well, it differentiates us from anybody we’re competing with in the cloud space.”
Where things get interesting for businesses wanting to explore letting users build their own apps, is with the upcoming Azure Pack’s support for high density web sites. In the past, if you needed an isolated web server for a developer you need to configure a new server, or at the very least spin up a virtual machine. But the growing demand for departmental web and mobile apps means that it’s getting harder and harder for IT teams to provide the resources those users and developers need. With 500 or 1,000 departmental web sites, an enterprise would have needed 500 or 1,000 servers, virtual or physical that needed patching and managing. That’s led to staff unofficially moving their development to the cloud, and out of the purview of IT departments – risking regulatory compliance and exposing corporate data to security breaches.
What the Azure Pack does is bring the technology used to host web apps in the cloud into your data center, no matter how big, with the same level of automation, and the same support for self service. It’s your own Platform as a Service (PaaS) in your own network, with what Anderson calls a “promise of consistency” as a foundation, something that seems to be catching the attention of CIOs. Anderson referred to a conversation with one financial services CIO, who told him, “I have always assumed that by developing a PaaS app I am locked into the cloud, something I have been resisting.”.But the Azure pack has changed that CIO’s thinking. As Anderson concluded, “With flexibility I know I can take advantage of the PaaS capability to take all benefits PaaS offers and not be locked in.”
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