Bring your ‘public’ clouds into the private sector

James Hayes

Monday 5 February 2018

Throughout 2017, cloud adoption has continued to be a major change-driver in enterprise IT strategies, with the public cloud services market projected to grow 18 per cent to $246.8 billion (up from $209.2 billion in 2016) by the end of this year, Gartner reports. Yet for many organisations, public cloud opportunities have remained limited as some critical workloads must remain on-premise, usually leaving them to maintain private clouds alongside their public cloud-based operations.

There may be multiple reasons why an organisation has to run some IT systems using on-premise or co-located third-party data centres, such as regulatory or governance requirements, special security needs, incoming data protection rules and a desire to spread risk or retain control. Whatever the case, it is a predicament that presents ongoing challenges for the IT function.

One is perceived lack of continuity due to multi-vendor IT assets: on-premise data centres may claim to comprise ‘best-in-class’ products, but over time can end up as a mish-mash of proprietary hardware solutions that require extra layers of integration and management as enterprises evolve, IT capabilities progress and complexity grows. Some of that complexity is likely to seep through into the private cloud platforms, creating more operational overhead. Leaving that kind of management ‘overhead-ache’ behind is a compelling attraction of public cloud options like Microsoft Azure.

Private cloud/public cloud hybrid models are certainly popular, according to a recent survey of CIOs in the UK, France and Germany, but arguably they sometimes lack the continuity and elegance to support the enterprise digitalisation that industry observers see as the way IT will deliver business value and quantifiable ROI into the 2020s. For enterprises that are already accustomed to the advantages of applications and projects running in Azure, a necessity to hybridise their cloud estates is a frustration – a frustration that Microsoft and Lenovo have focused their joint expertise on remedying with Lenovo ThinkAgile SX for Microsoft Azure Stack, a pre-integrated turnkey rack scale solution that enables Azure cloud services from private data centres.

Azure-to-Azure continuity

ThinkAgile SX for Microsoft Azure Stack provides a future-defined enterprise IT route that redefines the concept of ‘private cloud’ and bridges the disconnect between hybrid cloud ‘estates’ by enabling Azure environments to be rapidly deployed in on-premise and co-lo data centres, effectively creating a no-compromise private Azure environment cloud that has full-blown continuity with Azure public clouds.

With common tools and technologies across both Azure clouds, applications can be rapidly created in either one, and more easily migrated to the other. As analyst Moor Insights & Strategy points out, Azure Stack brings a consistent application development structure with consistent DevOps processes for hybrid cloud environments, because Azure Stack functions exactly the same as the Azure public cloud.

The innovative relationship that Microsoft and Lenovo have established over 20 years makes this product combination more than just another hardware-meets-software join-up. Azure Stack has been co-developed with Lenovo ThinkAgile SX as a preferred hardware platform. As such, ThinkAgile SX for Microsoft Azure Stack creates a new model for hybrid clouds, and it’s one that customers can deploy with pretty much the same flexibility and speed as public Azure cloud assignments.

Although Azure Stack is a relative new solution, Lenovo already has a growing number of customers – such as Calligo and ITPS –  up to speed with the products. And due to its close cooperative relationship with Microsoft, Lenovo also offers services for the entire Azure Stack deployment life cycle, from planning and rollout to support and asset recovery.

It’s still relatively early days for Microsoft Azure Stack, but it’s not getting too far ahead to suggest that ThinkAgile SX for Microsoft Azure Stack represents a compelling ‘third way’ for organisations that are evaluating private/public cloud journeys. And this is where the headline turning point could emerge – because it’s feasible to anticipate that adoption of Azure Stack closely integrated with SQL Server running on Lenovo ThinkAgile SX servers may well provide a first step toward enterprises acquiring the assurance to migrate hitherto premise-bound critical applications into de-segregated public clouds.

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