October, the first month in Q4 of the calendar year and Q2 of the Microsoft financial year, is also in the middle of planning for the next semester of development of Microsoft Azure (codenamed Cobalt). October is also the “hangover” for this year’s Microsoft Ignite so a lot of things that were announced actually appear in this time frame. October was also a month of new region announcements and Microsoft’s JEDI win continues to pay off for everyone.
Microsoft announced three new regions in October:
- Microsoft plans to establish new cloud datacenter region in Greece
- Microsoft plans to establish new cloud datacenter region in Austria
- Microsoft to establish its first datacenter region in Taiwan
If you get your Azure news from the general tech media then you’ll probably have misunderstood lots of things about these announcements.
The first misunderstanding is that the announcements were for data center regions, not for an Azure data center; that sentence has many meanings:
- Microsoft data center regions host lots of services, including Microsoft Azure. Some services, such as Microsoft Office, only run some of their components on Microsoft Azure. A Microsoft data center region can host Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, and other things, such as internal IT services for Microsoft that are not on Azure/M365, and Xbox services.
- A data center region is a collection of more than one data center. Some data centers are on opposite sides of a city. And sometimes, the region is deployed or later developed with availability zones to allow services to be deployed across different physical buildings and dependencies for a higher level of availability.
- When a country has two regions announced, it is not unusual that one region is the “failover region” which is not for production.
- The city location shared for a region is not always … hmm … accurate. Google Maps is quite an interesting resource for this. A great example of this is the West Europe region, also known as “Amsterdam”. The West Europe region is a collection of data centers in Middenmeer, approximately 60 KM north of Amsterdam.
The second, and biggest, misunderstanding is that these new regions will be somehow the same as other regions in terms of Azure services delivery. Local regions are not smaller versions of the “hero regions” – a term that Microsoft uses to describe regions such as Southeast Asia, West Europe, or East US. The hero regions are where you will find all (or just about all) services being available or in a preview state. Local regions offer a subset of these services – an be aware that the official public documentation does not share a full breakdown. Many essential sub-services or micro-features are not listed at all.
Before a new local region is announced, the local Microsoft subsidiary must commit to selling a minimum level of capacity. Typically, there are one or a few large customers that will be signed up to partially fund the initial build. Then a “datacenter account manager” has the responsibility to sell the remaining consumption target. And that account manager will sell hard, seeing other Microsoft Azure regions as competition, almost like AWS or GCP.
We know that from some of the older local regions, such as UK South, that consumers of those regions are always looking for features that are in the hero regions.
You might see the glossy headline. Growth is good but be aware that all is not what it seems at first.
The JEDI Payoff Continues
I have no hard evidence of what I am writing here. But let us agree that 1+1 usually =2.
JEDI is the name of a project (that Microsoft won via tender and appeal) to supply a huge private cloud to the US military. As you can expect in such a delivery, security and cost were two huge components.
Microsoft has made a huge investment and pushes on virtual network security in the last 12-24 months. Azure Firewall, Azure Firewall Manager and Secure Virtual Hub (scaled-out SD-WAN connections, including pop-up locations) have been developed and/or matured. Private Link/Endpoint is rolling out to all platform and management services – which is a huge improvement over the 10-or-so services that supported Service Endpoint. This month we saw App Services go GA with support for Private Endpoints and Azure Disk import/export (useful for backup/DR/replication products such as Veeam) went GA with Private Endpoint too.
In addition, cost management and reductions have continued to roll out. Thanks to the appeal by AWS against the award of the JEDI contract to Microsoft, we know that the cost of storage was a huge factor. Microsoft has invested in and matured cost management for storage:
- Blob storage has improved tiering over the last few years.
- In recent months, virtual machine disk storage has improved cost efficiencies by allowing performance burst from previously limited lower SKUs to levels of higher SKUs without costly resizing.
- The premium tier of file storage (a requirement for Citrix/Windows Virtual Desktop at scale) has reduced costs.
You might have thought that the JEDI contract had no impact on you, but as you can see, this sort of “moon shot” project can pay for investments that benefit everyone else