Microsoft's latest Azure moves shows it's all-in with the cloud

IT is moving away from its on-premises comfort zone, and Microsoft is pushing IT along

Still think this cloud thing is going away? Sorry. In fact, it keeps growing bigger and bigger. In the past week, Microsoft has made announcements regarding new versions of Azure and new ways to deliver Azure. Let's take a look at what's new or on the horizon.

Microsoft Azure StorSimple
Available as of Aug. 11, the StorSimple 8000-series hybrid arrays connect to your on-premises environment through iSCSI and to your Azure storage through the Internet. You get SSD and hard drive storage tiers, plus a cloud layer storage tier.

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The StorSimple Virtual Appliance that runs as a virtual machine in Azure can connect with Windows Server and Hyper-V, as well as on-premises Linux and VMware servers. That will make disaster recovery in the cloud easier, with VMs stored on the StorSimple Array restarted in Azure as necessary via the Instant Recovery feature.

Azure Machine Learning
Microsoft calls AML (Azure Machine Learning) a "fully managed service in the cloud that allows you to publish advanced analytic Web services in minutes and build enterprise-grade applications." Its use cases are as diverse as can be.

For example, Pier 1 Imports uses AML to predict what customers may want to buy next. Neal Analytics is using AML to help companies more intelligently buy search terms that drive people to their sites. OSIsoft uses AML help Carnegie Mellon University conserve energy by predicting energy consumption and detect faults.

The art of prediction in any situation may seem as impossible as determining the weather. However, technology has certainly improved in predicting weather, so it's credible that AML may improve enterprise predictions.

Knowing that AML might be hard to get started with, Microsoft has opened its online Machine Learning University, which provides how-to guides, access to training events, and "walkthroughs of the data science life cycle from importing and cleaning data to building predictive models and deploying them as production Web services."

Azure Certified Program
The new Azure Certified Program will let vendors and other developers sell their cloud applications and services through the Azure app store ecosystem (basically, an enterprise app store). Initially, the program is focused on Azure-certified virtual machines that admins can deploy directly through the Azure Management portal. Early program members include SAP, Oracle, Azul Systems, Bitnami, Riverbed Technologies, and Barracuda.

Azure partner programs
Although the cloud is geared toward self-service, the complexity of systems that use Azure can often require specialty help. That means the same kinds of resellers and consultants who've long helped IT with on-premises deployments have a role to play with Azure as well.

Microsoft's Cloud Solution Provider program is aimed at helping such providers gain more control over the customer process (billing, provisioning, and support). The release of Azure next month in Microsoft's Open Licensing program should also help such deployment partners grow their business on the Azure side.

The on-premises world we feel safe in as IT administrators is going bye-bye. But our roles are not going away; they are simply changing as the cloud becones part of our infrastructure. Microsoft clearly believes that, and its deepening of Azure's offerings shows that belief is strong.

This story, "Microsoft's latest Azure moves shows it's all-in with the cloud," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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