Microsoft Ignite 2021 – Part III: Azure.

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And in case you missed the first two parts, here they are:

I find the sheer amount of updates and new features on the Azure platform in recent years very impressive. It shows that Microsoft relies heavily on development. But many other market requirements are also being taken into account and slowly being implemented. This is of course good for Microsoft, but above all for the customers due to the steadily growing range of Microsoft services and the integration of other providers. In addition, usability is growing thanks to more flexible services that each customer can customize and put together.

In this blog I share my personal highlights of the second Ignite 2021 with you and give you my opinion on them.

Azure Stack HCI.

One of these highlights is the new 21H2 update for Azure Stack HCI, which offers many interesting updates. I have to admit that I was initially skeptical about Azure Stack HCI – especially about its potential to compete with other established solutions on the market. However, with the last update I see that it is a game changer that offers many advantages for Azure Stack HCI solutions and therefore the users.

A big advantage is that Microsoft is making sure that more and more native Azure services work on Azure Stack HCI. This means that you can now run containers with AKS (Azure Kubernetes Services) and various PaaS services such as SQL instances and web applications on a stack HCI. Microsoft has gone one step further here than being simple to operate as simple Windows and Linux computers.

Update 21H2 also provides another service, as Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) can now also be run from an Azure Stack HCI cluster. This provides users with new options such as displaying latency sensitive applications to end users on a desktop.

Another new feature in the 21H2 update is called “Azure Benefits for Windows Server” and enables Azure-enabled Windows Server 2022 versions to run on Azure Stack HCI. This allows features such as hot patching for security updates to be used without rebooting. You read that right – without restarting!

However, if you have an older version of Windows Server or SQL and are not ready or able to upgrade, you can also switch to Azure Stack HCI and receive free additional security updates – and continue to do so on the Azure cloud platform. A successful feature that makes it much easier for users to switch to the new cloud world. Many companies today still use Server 2008 and Server 2012, which urgently need protection.

It is now also possible to pay the license costs for the Windows Server guest systems directly via the linked Azure subscription. I see this as an elegant solution for licensing versions of Windows Server that have not yet been purchased.

Azure bow.

With Azure Arc, Microsoft laid the foundation for hybrid and multi-cloud environments some time ago. Customers can take advantage of the comprehensive security and management functions of Azure for their Windows, Linux, SQL Server and Kubernetes deployments in their on-premises data centers and with other cloud platform providers. It forms a kind of bridge between Azure and other worlds, as you can take advantage of it without having an Azure environment. These types of environments can be local data centers as well as other cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS).

At Ignite, extensions in this area for Azure Arc were announced, the most exciting is the extended integration of Azure Arc in VMWare vSphere, which enables VMware-based virtual machines to be managed directly in the Azure portal. As a first step, administrators can create, configure and delete virtual machines based on vSphere templates – a long-awaited feature that is now being implemented.

The already mentioned Azure Stack HCI solutions will in future also be activated automatically in Azure Arc and can therefore also be controlled directly from Azure. This involves controlling both the cluster hosts themselves and the virtual machines in the cluster.

Learn more about it here.

Microsoft Defender for Cloud.

With the Defender for Cloud (formerly Azure Security Center and Azure Defender) Microsoft is not only changing another name, but is also making a clear commitment to integration into the entire Defender family. Of even greater interest, however, is the native support of multi-cloud environments – in this case the integration of AWS services. Defender for Cloud analyzes AWS configurations, compares them to best security practices and displays them in the Secure Score. Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) can now also be integrated – another step towards making Microsoft Azure the central hub for multi-cloud environments in the future.

Summary.

In terms of Azure, Microsoft is very focused on developing technologies and functionality that make it easier for customers to get the most out of it. This becomes very clear when you look at the innovations surrounding hybrid and multi-cloud environments. Here, too, the ongoing pandemic and the associated accelerated digitization play a not insignificant role. Many companies have to act and expect cloud services that work – something that Microsoft can offer with its portfolio that covers the areas of modern work, security and (multi-cloud) data centers. In addition, customers will no longer use just one cloud platform in the future, which is why functionalities that enable the management and protection of multi-cloud environments are important.

If we’ve piqued your interest, you’ll see an overview of all the updates for the latest Ignite 2021 here.


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