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Azure Portal Takes on More On-Premises Capabilities

The Azure management portal isn't just for Microsoft's public cloud. Microsoft kicked off its annual Ignite conference in Orlando, Fla. this week announcing that Azure Stack appliances from Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lenovo are now available, along with news of bringing PowerShell, change tracking, update management, log analytics and simplified disaster recovery to the Azure portal.

Azure Stack appliances are the cornerstone of Microsoft's long-stated hybrid cloud strategy to bring its Azure cloud in line with the same portal management experience and proved the ability to build and provision instances and applications with the use of common APIs. "Azure Stack also enables you to begin modernizing your on-premises applications even before you move into the public cloud," said Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's executive VP for cloud and infrastructure, speaking in a keynote session at Ignite today.

"The command and control [are] identical," said Sid Nag, Gartner's research director for cloud services, during an interview at Ignite following the Guthrie's session. "If I have a craft, I don't have to learn new skills. I can transition very smoothly without a learning curve."

However, like any major new piece of infrastructure, despite significant interest, the pace and number of deployments remain to be seen, according to Nag. "Clients have been looking for an onramp to the public cloud, but they are not ready to commit," Nag said.

Microsoft maintains that enterprises should embrace the hybrid path it has championed for some time, but the company is also apparently giving them a nudge by bringing the Azure portal to their world, whether they use the public cloud. Adding these new capabilities brings the portal even to those not using Azure Stack. During the session, Corey Sanders, Microsoft's director of Azure compute, demonstrated the new features coming to the Azure portal.

PowerShell Built into Azure Portal: PowerShell is now built into the Azure portal, aimed at simplifying the creation of virtual machines. "It's browser based and can run on any OS or even from an iPhone," Sanders said. "If you are familiar with PowerShell, it used to take many, many, commands to get this going. Now it takes just one parameter," he said. "With that, I put in my user name and password and it creates a virtual machine, so you don't have to worry about the other configurations unless you want to." Sanders said IT pros can use classic PowerShell WhatIf queries to validate what a given command will do.

Change Tracking: When running a virtual machine, it is tracking every change on the VM including every file, event and registry change. It can scan a single machine or an entire environment, letting the IT pro discover all changes and investigate anything that requires attention.

Log Analytics: Administrators can now call on a set of prebuilt operations and set of statistics to discover the number of threats exist. It looks beyond the built-in antimalware, letting the administrator go into the analytics designer to create queries that, Sanders said, are simple to write. "They are ery SQL-like and allow me to do very custom thinvgs," he said. For example, it can query over last seven days the processor time of all the virtual machines in a specific subscription. It can group them by computer and display a time chart that specifies spikes of all the CPUs timed across those seven days.

Update Management: Administrators looking to see what updates or patches have been installed, or are awaiting installation can use this new feature in the Azure portal. It displays details of what the updates include, allows the administrator to choose which ones to act on. Sanders emphasized this works across an entire Azure or on-premise infrastructure of Windows and Linux machines.

Disaster Recovery: Noting that planning how to back up infrastructure and ensure a workable recovery plan is complex, Sanders said the site recovery capability in the Azure portal lets the administrators pick a target region and it will provide a picture of how a failover scenario will actually appear. "The key point here is this isn't just a single machine. You can do this across a set of machines, build a recovery plan across many machines, do the middleware and actually run scripts according to that plan," he said.

Microsoft said these features will appear in preview mode today. The company hasn't disclosed a final release date.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/25/2017 at 12:01 PM


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