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Cisco joins Microsoft in providing Azure Stack services in UCS server

Cisco and Microsoft have worked together in delivering Azure Stack services through Cisco's UCS server. The new product ships in the third quarter.

Cisco is planning to offer customers Microsoft Azure Stack services preloaded on its Unified Computing System server, once the late-to-market hybrid cloud technology is made available later this year.

Introduced this week, the Cisco Integrated System for Azure Stack is a joint engineering effort between the two major enterprise tech vendors. The Azure Stack-UCS combo will include one application that manages compute and network elements through "policy-based templates," according to Cisco.

Cisco plans to offer the Integrated System in the third quarter, shortly after Microsoft releases the Azure Stack midyear. Microsoft had planned to release the software by the end of last year, but scaling down its Azure public cloud into a prepackaged system for an individual data center proved harder than expected.

Microsoft is pursuing a hybrid cloud strategy in which the underlying software of its Azure infrastructure-as-a-service cloud is duplicated in the customer's data center. The company claims that approach will make it easier to manage applications running in Azure and the private cloud. If Microsoft is right, then it would solve one of the most vexing problems with hybrid clouds.

Azure Stack services untested in production

But how well Azure Stack will perform is unclear. So far, only limited operation and proof-of-concept  versions have been available on the market. The PoC version is a single machine that doesn't allow for enterprise-scale testing or networking between systems, according to Jim O'Reilly, a cloud expert and a TechTarget contributor.

Rather than sell Azure Stack services as stand-alone software that can run on any server, Microsoft has chosen to deliver it through partnerships with hardware vendors. Cisco joins Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lenovo in selling systems integrated with the Microsoft software.

The hardware vendors are eager to partner with the No. 2 public cloud provider after Amazon. Microsoft, on the other hand, is trying to make it as easy as possible to send workloads to Azure.

"If they can hook them [enterprises] on Azure for private clouds, when they are ready to move to the public cloud, Microsoft will have them locked in," said John Fruehe, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, based in Austin, Texas.

Projections differ on how much enterprises will favor public or private clouds. Overall, however, the portion of enterprise workloads running on a public or private cloud, including software as a service, will increase from roughly 40% in 2016 to 60% by mid-2018, according to 451 Research.

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