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Cisco UCS To Join Microsoft's Azure Stack Roster

Microsoft has tapped Cisco Systems as the fourth partner to offer the forthcoming Azure Stack cloud platform. Cisco will offer Azure Stack in its UCS converged server and network appliance, which Microsoft today said both companies will engineer.

The datacenter and networking giant was conspicuously absent from the list of Azure Stack partners when Dell, HPE and Lenovo were first announced by Microsoft to offer the software on their respective systems. Microsoft is co-engineering the Azure Stack solutions on the respective three players converged systems as well.

Despite Cisco's absence from last summer's list, it has various partnerships with Microsoft tying various wares from both companies, including one inked in 2014 to integrate Cisco Nexus switches and UCS Manager with System Center integration modules and Cisco PowerTools with Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, PowerShell and Microsoft Azure. The two had also announced plans to integrate Microsoft's wares with Cisco ACI and Cisco Intercloud.

Cisco's cloud strategy is going through a transition. The company is now emphasizing its hybrid cloud portfolio on UCS, as it sets to shut down its Intercloud network of interconnected public clouds at the end of March. Cisco had launched Intercloud, an ambitious multi-cloud project, in 2014. Based on OpenStack, the company at the time said its $1 billion effort would become the largest public network of interconnected clouds. Azure Stack, which brings the same software and engineering design into a converged system as Microsoft runs in its public cloud, appears to fit into Cisco's hybrid cloud portfolio.

Microsoft first revealed plans to offer Azure Stack in May 2015 and had targeted the end of last year to release the software. But after the first technical preview, the company decided to limit partnerships with the three OEMs to provide systems co-engineered between Microsoft and the respective hardware suppliers. While the decision angered a number of partners and service providers who were already testing the software on their own hardware, Microsoft defended the move, saying it wanted to ensure that the first Azure Stack implementations provided a consistent experience with the company's public cloud.

Nevertheless, Microsoft officials have indicated the possibility of offering Azure Stack through other partners over time. Besides Dell, HPE and Lenovo, Cisco is among the largest providers of datacenter infrastructure and the leading supplier of networking hardware and software. Among the four developing Azure Stack-based systems, Cisco is newer to the server business. The company launched UCS, which consists of virtualized servers, switches and management software, in 2009.

It appears the company is targeting its offering, called the Cisco Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack, at service and hosting providers, though large enterprises have expressed interest in deploying the private instantiations of the Microsoft Azure Cloud.

"The Cisco Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack reinforces Cisco's complete approach to cloud, offering businesses the freedom to choose the best environment and consumption model for their traditional and cloud-native applications," wrote, Liz Centoni, senior VP and general manager of Cisco's Computing Systems Product Group, in a blog post announcing its Azure Stack offering.

Slated for release in third quarter of this year, Centoni noted that the Cisco Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack will offer both IaaS or PaaS services integrated in UCS with high-performance networking switches and the company's Cisco Virtual Card Interface optimized for Azure Stack.

Cisco's Azure Stack offering will also provide a common management interface for managing compute, an Azure Stack optimized adapter and networking with templates to support policies for multi-tenant environments. The Azure Stack offering on is UCS will also include Cisco One Enterprise Cloud Suite, which automates deployment and management applications, and is offered with more than 20 hybrid cloud platforms.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/10/2017 at 3:29 PM


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