Why businesses should use hybrid cloud for their data

Hybrid cloud strategy

The existing Cloud Platform System, the upcoming Azure Stack release and the Operations Management Suite (OMS) cloud service are the key pieces of Microsoft's hybrid cloud strategy, alongside hybrid options in products like StorSimple and the new SQL Server 2016 release.

"We're bringing Azure to customers' data centres," says Schutz, although that means the parts of Azure that make sense, rather than the entire Azure service. "Our strategy is to help customers deploy an Azure-consistent cloud in their own environment and deliver that to their users as services."

Hybrid cloud

Microsoft says analysts and customers are seeing hybrid cloud as the way for existing businesses to work with the cloud

Storage and backup is an obvious place to start with hybrid cloud, because every business is handling more data these days, whether it's videos, virtual machines, customer information or data from IoT sensors, and it's growing faster than the price of drives is dropping.

"Because of this phenomenon of data doubling every couple of years, the cost of storage in our customers' environments is increasing dramatically. We're working to make our public cloud Azure storage a seamless extension of our customers' storage infrastructure today. Can we help organisations reduce the cost of that storage and get more value from it by using the cloud, and – once it's up in the cloud – do more with that data like rich analytics?"

Azure StorSimple

One option is the Azure StorSimple appliance – which can be a hardware iSCSI SSD SAN, or a virtual appliance that tiers older data up to Azure. Schutz compares it to automatic cloud backup of smartphones: "As consumers we take it for granted that our phones are always connected to the cloud and if I take a picture, in the background that picture is going to get copied to the cloud. If I lose my phone, I'm not going to lose all of the files, the settings, the contacts, or those pictures. If I get a new phone it just sucks them down from the cloud.

"You can almost think of StorSimple in the same way where I've got on-premises storage, I get the benefit of high-performance SSD storage, lots of IOPS, but as that data ages, it goes up to the cloud for archival and backup."

OMS also includes backup and disaster recovery. "It's democratising the DR capabilities that traditionally were reserved for the top-end of applications before, because of the expense. Thinking about how you can use the cloud as a customer's failover site, you can have backup and DR for a lot of applications that have gone unprotected, or were protected with really expensive DR systems.

"We think the cloud can fundamentally change that model, help reduce costs and expand the footprint of the number of applications and VMs they protect in their environment."

And as businesses build and buy new applications, they can use hybrid cloud for data. "Developers can write apps that span public and private cloud," says Schulz. "They can build apps that are consistent with a huge portfolio of apps that rely on SQL Server today in the existing traditional environment.

"We have SQL Azure database as a highly consistent public cloud offering. And we have these new capabilities in SQL Server 2016 for a stretch database, where tables and rows can be tiered up to the cloud as that table grows over time."

Managing other services

Realistically, Microsoft isn't assuming that Azure will be the only public cloud customers will have. If you're using different cloud services, you can manage those with OMS, Schutz says. "Organisations can manage any application and any instance across clouds, not just Microsoft clouds – not just Azure or Microsoft private clouds but reaching into VMware environments and AWS environments and OpenStack environments to really give a holistic view of their IT operations and get great analytics and information from that.

"The concept of seamlessly extending what our customers have on-premises as well as helping them manage across clouds, that's really the focus of our hybrid offering."

Accepting that hybrid cloud doesn't just mean Azure and Azure Stack, or just Windows Server either, gives Microsoft an advantage over other hybrid cloud systems, which assume businesses will shift everything to any single system – whether that's OpenStack or Cloud Foundry or anything else – and makes it an option for businesses that are using public clouds other than Azure.


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.