Microsoft readies its AWS Outposts hybrid competitor: Azure Stack 'Fiji'

Microsoft is working on a new member of the Azure Stack family, which will provide Azure hardware managed via the Azure public cloud, for customers to install in their own datacenters.

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Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is developing a new member of its Azure Stack hybrid computing family that is codenamed Azure Stack "Fiji." Fiji is meant to provide users with the ability to run Azure as a local cloud, managed by public Azure and delivered in the form of racks of servers provided by Microsoft directly to users, according to my contacts.

Microsoft was the first of the top cloud vendors to make support for hybrid computing a key piece of its strategy. But since Microsoft began selling Azure Stack in July 2017, customer expectations for hybrid have changed. AWS entered the hybrid space with AWS Outposts and Google Cloud with Anthos recently, and Microsoft has been working to match some of their newer hybrid functionality.

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Azure Stack Fiji is primarily taking aim at Amazon's AWS Outposts offering, which AWS made generally available in December 2019. AWS describes Outposts as "a fully managed service that extends AWS infrastructure, AWS services, APIs, and tools to virtually any datacenter, co-location space, or on-premises facility for a truly consistent hybrid experience. AWS Outposts is ideal for workloads that require low latency access to on-premises systems, local data processing, or local data storage."

Microsoft's goal with Azure Stack Fiji is also focused around providing users with low-latency capacity that is fully managed via the Azure fabric -- presumably via Azure Arc -- and using the same hardware infrastructure that Microsoft uses to run Azure. Azure Stack Hub, the current centerpiece of the company's hybrid-computing play, is provided as an appliance preloaded on certified server hardware from a a handful of Microsoft partners.

Making this happen isn't trivial. Microsoft is having to revamp how its Azure services operate, consider how its security model works and adjust how the company looks at configuring and managing its hardware. I'm not sure how far along Microsoft is on this path. I asked the company for comment on Fiji and was told by a spokesperson that "Microsoft has nothing to share." 

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Microsoft's current hybrid-computing line-up includes Azure Stack Hub, its "Azure-consistent private cloud"; Azure Stack Edge, its cloud-managed appliance; Azure Stack HCI (Hyperconverged Infrastructure), its hyperconverged solution; and Azure Edge Zones, its ultra-low-latency cloud solution. 

Bonus update: Microsoft codename historians will likely recall this isn't the first time Microsoft used "Fiji" as a codename. Hopefully, its use this time won't end as badly.