I am incredibly excited to have the opportunity to lead the Microsoft Hybrid Cloud group in Dell EMC's Converged Platforms and Solutions Division. The last few years working with the Microsoft presales systems engineers at EMC have been a truly memorable experience. I've learned more than I thought possible, and have had the great pleasure to work with and meet some absolutely wonderful people in whom I've found competence, passion, creativity and personal warmth. I'm both happy and fortunate that I won't be going far, - I'll still be working closely with the MSpecialists.
Our first major initiative will be bringing the Dell EMC Azure Stack to market. There's been quite a bit of effort put forth on the solution so far, and we were excited to be on stage at the Ignite conference earlier this year. I'm even more excited to be able to present the product at Dell EMC World in May, and for the launch later next year. In the meantime, I'd like to share my thoughts on why I accepted the position, and why I think Dell EMC is hands down the best placed provider for Azure Stack solutions.
Azure Stack is the future ready platform for Microsoft applications
Imagine for a moment what an application like SharePoint, Exchange, or Dynamics might look like if it were conceived and built today. Instead of using a relational database as your only persistent storage, think about how scalable something like a SharePoint farm could be if it leveraged object storage instead of a relational database. Think about how quickly you could index content if it not only resided in that object store, but you could fire up microservices to index it, bursting the process to take advantage of any available compute (wherever it resides) in the face of a large ingest of new data. Now extend that imagination exercise to any existing enterprise application, whether custom or commercially provided. This is why developers are so excited about cloud technologies in general – they make fewer compromises when they have a robust, predictable cloud ecosystem from which to get their tools.
But enterprise application developers are still hamstrung today. They can choose to deploy their application on public clouds like Azure, Google, or Amazon to take advantage of all those rich cloud services. But it means two things:
- Their customers will have to be OK with running their application in the public cloud. There are a whole host of reasons why someone might be unable, unwilling, or just hesitant to run an application in public cloud, from regulatory or governance concerns, disparate data locations, inadequate network, cost – the list goes on.
- Legacy enterprise application developers face a "lift and shift" operation, which is unrealistic given the complexity these mission critical applications present. The inappropriateness of legacy applications running on modern cloud systems is the primary driver of bi-modal IT
But what if you could have predictable, consistent cloud services on commodity hardware, at small scale points, operable virtually anywhere by virtually anyone, and STILL have complete compatibility with a globally present megacloud provider? That is Azure Stack in a nutshell, and it's not hard to see why I'm buying into that vision, and Dell EMC is investing heavily.
The Azure Marketplace will change the enterprise computing landscape
Imagine again for a moment that you're setting up a new environment for SAP. Or SharePoint. Or any other multi-tier enterprise application. No matter how small it the application, you start your planning by figuring out the application requirements and translating that to infrastructure, eventually figuring out how many virtual or (gasp) physical machines you'll need to support the application, the kind of network connectivity you'll need, and then all the stuff around it, like backup, security, business continuity and so forth. Then you go about provisioning those servers. If you're lucky, your infrastructure team has set up infrastructure as a service, and some of the process is automated. Hopefully your networking is software defined, so you can automate some of that. But at the end of the day, you're still managing virtual machines. Once you get it set up, you have to set up a maintenance plan to ensure that everything gets patched and updated, and validated afterward.
The Azure Stack Marketplace can change much of how that is done. Enterprise application developers can use Azure Resource Manager to define what the applications optimal infrastructure landscape looks like. They can push out updates dynamically if desired. You can already see the complexity draining out of systems that use this model. Pivotal for example, has used the Azure Marketplace to automate the delivery of Cloud Foundry instances – complete with dozens of virtual machines and associated services with a single click. Developers will flock to this model because it's far easier to support and they can deliver value to the consumers at the pace of their own development, rather than the pace of the consumers' update cycle. Consumers will flock to the model for all the same reasons most of them use the app stores on their mobile phones – they are provisioning services, not servers, and the update process is cleaner.
And with Azure Stack, developers can deliver these modern (or modernized) applications without forcing customers into potentially awkward decisions around regulatory, geographic, hosting, or costing models.
Why I'm amped about the Dell EMC Azure Stack
Hands down, Dell EMC has more experience with Azure, Microsoft Hybrid Cloud, and converged engineering solutions than any other company. Let's take this one by one:
Dell EMC's existing investments in public Azure technologies are difficult to overstate. Pivotal is deeply invested in Azure, and you can find Cloud Foundry and Greenplum on the Azure Marketplace today. You can find our security solutions around Cloudlink SecureVM and RSA in the Marketplace as well. We have tiering solutions for both active data with Isilon Cloud Pools and CloudArray, and backup data with Cloudboost. You'll find that data protection solutions like Avamar Virtual Edition have been validated in Azure, and you can even purchase public Azure Cloud Services through Dell, including backup, test/dev labs, and site recovery. There's a lot of active work across all the Dell EMC divisions and there will be much good news around that in the coming year. Many of these services designed for Azure will be directly applicable to Azure Stack as it ships next year.
Dell is the only provider of the Microsoft Premium Cloud Platform System, and independently developed its little sister, the Dell Hybrid Cloud System. Dell has already brought significant innovation to the Microsoft cloud platforms through the streamlined patch and update process. Anyone who's built their own Windows Azure Pack system knows that the patching ballet of firmware, Windows, System Center, and Azure Pack itself is an art. The lessons we've learned around how to consistently deliver, maintain, and automate complex Microsoft private cloud systems will be brought to bear on the Azure Stack solution. Just as importantly, Dell has innovated with creative payment models that allow organization to consume private cloud with flexibility similar to public cloud.
On the infrastructure side, Dell EMC created the market for converged compute/storage/network solutions back in 2009 (as VCE), and it has been going like gangbusters ever since. We have led the way in making complex systems simple to consume, operate and support. As centerprises increasingly adopted cloud technologies, we expanded our engineered system portfolio to include the VMware-based Enterprise Hybrid Cloud, and more recently the Openstack-based Native Hybrid Cloud.
This will benefit customers in two primary ways: First, the organizational experience that Dell EMC has in delivering engineered cloud systems will be applied to the Azure Stack solution - not just the engineering, but delivery, consulting, support and maintenance. Second, the Dell EMC Azure Stack solution will complete Dell EMC's engineered cloud portfolio, allowing customers to choose a single provider and point of support for all of their engineered cloud needs.
You might be wondering what the vague handwaving about how that experience and tribal knowledge translates to in practice. It boils down to this:
Azure Stack is no science project for Dell
Skunkworks projects are exhilarating and fun. It's where the some of the most creative technical work gets done - where technology gets sculpted into value. However, you don't deliver skunkworks projects to customers at scale. So, we will be lighting up our engineering Centers of Excellence across the globe to innovate and improve the customer experience across the entire Azure Stack (and Azure for that matter). We will be training our own employees and partners across all functions from corporate engineers, services delivery, education, consulting, presales and sales to help customers get the most out of their Azure Stack experience.
I am excited for myself and Dell EMC to be part of this. It will be a fun, transformative, and at times challenging experience for everyone involved.