Microsoft will start letting customers run Azure programs in clouds owned by Amazon and Google

Key Points
  • Azure Arc will support deployments on Amazon Web Services and other non-Microsoft infrastructure.
  • It's the latest effort by CEO Satya Nadella to let customers use whatever technology they want, even if it's from a rival.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at an Economic Club of New York event in New York on Feb. 7, 2018.
Mark Kauzlarich | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft has taken yet another step toward ending the era of proprietary software, rolling out technology that will let customers use its Azure cloud tools on competing services.

Microsoft introduced Azure Arc software at its Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida, on Monday. Developers will be able to use Arc to deploy a database or virtual machine onto infrastructure from Amazon or Google and manage it from Azure.

The move underscores the change in tone and strategy at Microsoft under CEO Satya Nadella, who succeeded Steve Ballmer in 2014 and began forging partnerships with longtime rivals so customers could choose the technology that works best for them rather than being forced to purchase bundles. For example, in recent years Microsoft has made its products more accessible on Apple's iOS devices and integrated the open-source Linux operating system into Windows.

Jason Zander, executive vice president of Azure, said Arc builds on the company's past efforts to give customers access to rival vendors' software, through partnerships with the likes of Oracle, IBM's Red Hat and SAP.

"There wasn't a lot of debate or angst around bringing this goodness out to folks and making it easier for them to embrace these new solutions," Zander said in an interview.

Azure, a critical piece of Microsoft's expansion, delivered 59% revenue growth in the latest quarter, more than quadruple the growth rate of the parent company. Microsoft is making acquisitions and introducing products that can give the company a leg up over larger rival Amazon Web Services and Google's cloud, which is smaller but growing at a rapid clip.

Cloud providers have historically kept their cloud services tied tightly to the infrastructure they maintain in data centers located around the globe, but the emerging trend is to decouple those things, giving customers more options to use the products they like in their environment of choice. In 2015, Microsoft introduced Azure Stack, allowing businesses to use features of Microsoft's cloud technology in their local facilities.

Amazon announced Outposts hardware last year to bring AWS services to companies' own data centers, and earlier this year, Google introduced Anthos, a product that will let companies run Google cloud software in their data centers and move workloads to public clouds. Outposts isn't yet available.

Azure Arc will be able to run applications on Azure Stack along with other on-premises infrastructure, Zander said.

Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly said that Anthos isn't available yet.

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