Microsoft Azure Arc: Hybrid management for hybrid environments

23 May 2023

Hybrid Cloud
Technology review

With the hybrid cloud becoming the standard at many companies, Azure Arc's arrival on the scene is very timely. "Azure Arc offers plenty of advantages for anyone either operating in a hybrid environment or considering this," says Andy Brutyn, Senior System Engineer at Inetum-Realdolmen.

A growing number of companies have now embraced cloud technology in all its various guises. This is simply a fact. That doesn't mean everything is happening exclusively in the cloud. Andy Brutyn agrees. "At the moment, most companies still maintain a local infrastructure, while also migrating infrastructure to the cloud to at least some extent.

As our expert explains, a typical example would be a company that invested heavily in its own data center hardware in the past. "The hardware hasn't fully depreciated yet, and they may still have concrete plans for its use. Furthermore, many companies must keep certain data or operations local for legal reasons. At the same time, they are aware of the potential and advantages of cloud platforms like Azure. This would involve managing two separate environments, though, making things significantly more complex. That's where Microsoft's Azure Arc comes in."

One management console suffices

Hybrid cloud computing combines an on-premise infrastructure or private cloud with a public cloud. Azure, Microsoft's public cloud, was designed to accommodate such a hybrid setup from the start, although it was still necessary to manage the various components or IT environments separately at first. With Azure Arc, Microsoft has made it possible for its customers to simplify their hybrid cloud management as well. 

"To do so, Azure Arc uses software agents that run on your data center's systems," Andy Brutyn explains. "Whether systems are local or in the cloud doesn't matter. The agents ensure that every system is visible as a resource in Azure. In practical terms, this means you can use Azure's management console to view resources located on-premise, in your own private cloud – or even in a different public cloud, such as AWS."

"Moreover, you can manage pretty much all your resources, whether or not these are Azure resources originally, using that one Azure screen, or 'single pane of glass'. You can add tags to non-Azure resources in order to organize them within your Azure environment, for instance. You can then link various policies to those tags based on your Active Directory in Azure. In this way, you can assign different rights pertaining to the use of resources in your on-premise environment or other cloud environment using that one, consistent Azure dashboard."

"And that's only the start of all the management tasks that used to require a separate operation in Azure, or were only possible in Azure, even, which Azure Arc now allows you to easily extend from that single Microsoft environment to the remainder of your infrastructure, whether locally or in the cloud." Besides tagging and policies to help with identity and access management, Andy Brutyn notes several additional advantages, such as the ability to manage compliance, system security and monitoring and to execute various scripts across those systems. "And that's before we've even gone into all Azure Arc's advantages where development and implementation are concerned. Those are worth considering as well. For example, you could develop native Azure applications based on Azure PaaS components and then deploy these in your on-premise environment instead of in the public cloud." 

Bridge to the cloud

"Azure Arc is not a migration tool," Andy Brutyn says, just to be clear. "However, for any migration project of a certain size where a move to the cloud is a possibility, and especially for Microsoft's Azure cloud, this innovative hybrid management solution is definitely worth at least a look. And let's be honest here, that's most companies these days, no matter what your size or sector."

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