Microsoft enables more Azure services to run anywhere via Azure Arc

Microsoft is filling out and repositioning some of its key Azure services, including its Azure Application Services, Azure Applied AI Services and Azure Communication Services.

Microsoft has been steadily enabling more of its Azure services to run on other clouds, on-premises, and now, on Kubernetes clusters. On day one of its virtual Build 2021 developers conference, Microsoft added more "Arc-enabled" Azure services to its list. It also is adding some new incremental capabilities to its newly branded "Azure Applied AI Services."

Microsoft took the wraps off Azure Arc, its centralized Azure management plane, back in 2019. Azure Arc allows users to manage everything from inventory and governance to server configuration and organization centrally, regardless of where these server workloads are located. Azure Arc enables users to project their on-premises and cloud resources -- virtual or physical servers and Kubernetes clusters --  into Azure Resource Manager to manage resources as if they're running in Azure, using a single pane of glass.

As of this week, more Microsoft cloud services including Azure App Service, Functions, Logic Apps, API Management, and Event Grid are all now Arc-enabled (in preview form). This means they can be run on Kubernetes clusters, as well as on-premises, multi-cloud, and edge environments using Azure. Officials said any Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)-conformant Kubernetes cluster connected via Azure Arc can become a deployment target for these Azure application services.

Microsoft also announced at Build that it is grouping together a number of its Azure AI services and rebranding them as "Azure Applied AI Services." Microsoft is combining its Azure Bot Service, Azure Metrics Advisor, Azure Video Analyzer, Azure Cognitive Search, Azure Form Recognizer, and Azure Immersive Reader and designating them as Azure Applied AI Services. 

Azure Applied AI Services are for customers who want to use them as the base to build out AI-specific solutions for their businesses. They're built on top of Azure Cognitive Services, a collection of Microsoft AI models and tools that can do things like extract meaning from text, integrate speech into apps and services, and analyze content within images and videos.

Microsoft is trying to make using AI easier by giving customers a set of commonly used business processes on top of which they can customize, rather than having to build these kinds of foundational services repeatedly themselves. Many of the Azure Applied AI Services build on tools Microsoft developed for its own internal use. Officials cited Azure Metrics Advisor, which evolved from work the Bing team did to detect deviations from normal operations, as an example. That work spawned the Anomaly Detector Azure Cognitive Service.

Additionally, Microsoft is adding new features to its Azure Communications Services (ACS). ACS is meant to give customers and partners access to the same voice, video, chat, and texting services that Microsoft uses to power Teams. ACS is getting a UI library (available now in preview), call recording (next month in preview), direct routing (next month in preview), transversal using relays around NAT, or TURN, protocol support (now available in preview), and a calling software development kit for Windows UWP.