7 min read
Doron Grinstein

Azure Hybrid Cloud

If you’re building a hybrid cloud, Azure is arguably ahead of Google Cloud and even AWS.

Azure is Embracing the Hybrid Cloud Model

The major cloud providers — AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure — all have a vested interest in getting companies to use their cloud services on their infrastructure.

However, it’s become fairly clear that not only is private cloud and multi-cloud infrastructure here to stay, but it may also be on the rise as companies manage their computing infrastructure to meet business requirements.

Azure, like the other major cloud providers AWS and Google Cloud, recognizes that many businesses’ requirements for ultra-low latency, data sovereignty, or compliance are driving them to build hybrid infrastructures that combine public cloud elements with private clouds.

Rather than buck this trend, Azure has embraced it and built a suite of tools and services designed to help companies manage and expand their hybrid clouds. Azure has, arguably, the most mature portfolio of hybrid cloud functionality and no doubt sees hybrid as a way to wean customers away from AWS. After all, if you can convince a customer to manage an AWS EKS cluster with Azure Arc, then perhaps that customer will switch to AKS later on.


What is a Hybrid Cloud?

A hybrid cloud is essentially a combination of public and private cloud deployment models:

  • Public – A public cloud model is a shared infrastructure that can be made available to any company that wants to purchase a portion of the infrastructure. The public cloud provider maintains the hardware, security, cooling systems, and more. The public cloud is a popular choice for businesses because it alleviates the pressure to maintain hardware resources and is easily scalable. 
  • Private – The private cloud model is accessible to only one business. Private clouds usually lack the scalability of public clouds, but they are still constructed in a way that their hardware infrastructure is abstracted. When a private cloud needs to be scaled up or down, teams will need to install new hardware. Usually, companies choose a private cloud model for security reasons to keep their data processing private and (often) maintain compliance with regulations.

A hybrid cloud essentially combines features of the public and private cloud models. Businesses can utilize the security of a private cloud while harnessing the scalability of the public cloud for growth and expansion.

Understanding Azure Hybrid Cloud

The Azure marketplace offers many perks and products for companies building hybrid clouds, such as software assurance and a host of tools meant to streamline development for those with qualifying subscription licenses. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Azure Arc – Arc is a management interface that gives developers a consistent development and operational environment for running cloud resources running anywhere. These resources could be a Kubernetes cluster — whether in a private datacenter or another cloud provider — a server, a VM, or Azure Stack HCI. Once you add the resource to Arc, it benefits from many of the management and security features you’re familiar with in Azure.
  • Azure Stack – Stack is itself a suite of services that enable developers to take elements of Azure cloud and deploy them to private infrastructure — their own servers, VMs, and even portable, ruggedized devices. Azure Stack is split into three distinct products: Stack Hub, Stack HCI (Hyper Converged Infrastructure), and Stack Edge. All three parts of Stack work with Azure Arc.
  • Azure Hybrid Benefits – Hybrid Benefits is a licensing service whereby a company with existing on-premises licenses of software resources (Windows Server, SQL Server licenses, and even certain Linux server distributions) can apply those licenses to the same resources in Azure cloud. In some instances, applying the Azure Hybrid Benefit can generate substantial savings, especially for enterprises that have already invested in on-premises infrastructure.

Benefits of Azure Hybrid Cloud

There are many reasons to choose a hybrid architecture, not the least of which is that you probably already maintain a mixture of public and private infrastructure. Here are a few key Azure hybrid cloud benefits:

  • Balancing Data Security with Flexibility – Having a mixture of public and private cloud architecture enables you to match the various components of your applications and data with the type of infrastructure best suited to it. You may, for instance, choose to keep user PII from certain jurisdictions housed in a private cloud within the same jurisdiction for data sovereignty while analyzing those datasets with a publicly available cloud service. Having both options at your disposal gives you the best of both worlds. Some of the most commonly used security-related Microsoft products, like Active Directory, are available both on-premises and in the Azure platform, facilitating what Microsoft terms “hybrid identity.”
  • Leveraging Your Existing Investment – If you’re a Microsoft shop and your private datacenter is already bulging with Windows servers running a Microsoft software stack, then extending that private cloud infrastructure to a hybrid one in the Azure portal is common sense. You’ll not only be able to leverage your existing knowledge with familiar Microsoft concepts in the Azure SQL database, but you may also (using Azure Hybrid Benefits for Windows, mentioned above) be able to use your existing Microsoft software and Windows server licenses.
  • Counting on Microsoft to Play Nice – Azure’s relative maturity in hybrid cloud solutions is partly due to the incentives at play. Unlike Amazon AWS, or Google, Microsoft stands to win no matter where you build your infrastructure — provided you build it with Microsoft-licensed technologies. From a revenue standpoint, AWS is way ahead of Microsoft in the cloud market and open-source technologies like Linux are way ahead of Microsoft in the on-prem infrastructure market, so Microsoft can’t tell their customers that it’s their way or the highway. They have incentives to play nicely with the existing clouds and on-premises technologies that their customers use, so they can slowly migrate them to a more Microsoft-centric infrastructure. For Azure, helping their customers build hybrid clouds is an offensive strategy against AWS and Google — one they’re likely to put significant resources into.


A Virtual Cloud Made Up of Public and Private Clouds

Control Plane is a platform that enables you to combine any or all of the computing regions of Azure, GCP, and AWS into a “virtual cloud” that your workloads run on agnostically. You can also add any Kubernetes cluster running anywhere (even under your desk, in a private datacenter, or a public cloud) to Control Plane, and it becomes part of the same computing fabric. Even better, a single workload running on Control Plane can consume any combination of public or private cloud services (Azure AD, AWS S3, Google Big Query, or a service inside of a VPC or on a developer’s laptop).

Control Plane enables you to use the best of Azure with the best of public and private cloud infrastructure in an easy-to-manage hybrid cloud computing infrastructure.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Azure hybrid benefits?

The Azure hybrid cloud can offer many benefits for Windows server users:

  • The ability to extend your on-premise infrastructure into the Azure public cloud.
  • The capability to use Azure Stack to reduce latency and connectivity issues.
  • Use Azure to support secure single sign-on.
  • Use Azure resources, Windows virtual machines, and toolkits to automate data migration when you need to adjust your data architecture.

What is an Azure hybrid cloud?

Azure offers many different technologies and services which make operating private infrastructure similar to operating infrastructure in Azure – sometimes within the same interface. Azure also offers financial incentives which enable companies to leverage their existing on-prem software licenses on Azure.