What is Azure Arc?
Most companies have a history or portfolio of databases, applications, and server architecture. With the necessity to shift data to the cloud, cloud services exploded and resources began siloing across multiple systems.
Edge servers sprawled across different locations and hundreds of Azure resources were constantly used by customers every day through Azure Management. Azure Management is the phenomenon of managing, deploying, configuring, securing, and governing Azure resources in cloud environments.
But with the sudden boom in adopting cloud services, demand for Azure Management suddenly shot up across their entire IT estate. This seemed impossible to manage until Azure Arc arrived.
In this post, we will see what Azure Arc is and how it has helped thousands of Azure users across the globe.
Table of Contents
- What is Azure Arc?
- Extending the control plane of Azure with Azure Arc
- Use case of Azure Arc
- Why should your business consider Azure Arc?
What is Azure Arc?
To put it in a nutshell, Azure Arc is a set of services that extend Azure Management services and Azure services to multiple systems including on-premises, cloud environment, and edge servers. This means that you can run Azure services anywhere and it is not just restricted to your cloud environment. You can employ Azure services to your on-premises network(Corporate network) and even in the edge servers from where data is pushed to the customers.
Since the last decade, Microsoft has been trying to extend the services of Azure Management aka the Azure control plane, which is responsible for managing the lifecycle of resources like virtual machines, database instances, and Hadoop clusters.
In technical etymology, this control plane is known as the Fabric Controller. Each time a VM is run, terminated, or on hold, every process goes through the Azure Fabric Controller.
There is an additional layer called Azure Resource Manager(ARM) that lies between the control plane and the Azure resources, which automates the resource lifecycle. Also, Azure provides built-in resource providers running within Azure. For instance, resource providers like VMs, SQL instances, and Azure Kubernetes services provide Azure resources to data and applications running within Azure.
Azure Arc provides the following control plane features at no cost, but ensures consistent pricing for other asset management and services supported by Azure -
- Resource inventory and organization of resources through resource tags and groups.
- Indexing and searching features through the resource-allocation graph.
- Access and security through role-based access control and subscriptions.
- Resource automation and allocation through templates and extensions.
Extending the control plane of Azure with Azure Arc
With the advent of Azure Arc, Microsoft has extended the Azure resource manager to platforms outside Azure. A physical server running in a data center may look like a compute resource(service providing a virtual environment like virtual machines) in the eyes of the Azure control plane.
Even virtual machines running on top of Google compute engine and Amazon EC2 can be registered with the Azure Resource Manager. For Azure VMs, the communication running between them is initiated by a virtual agent-like software inside those VMs. Platforms running external VMs are equipped with the above described Azure feature when registered with the Azure resource manager.
Most people may be confused about these Azure terms and may even think that both are the same. But Azure stack is a hardware solution for running Azure resources in your on-premises network. On the other hand, an Azure Arc is a software solution that facilitates Azure resources across multiple networks outside Azure providing centralized management.
Use Case of Azure Arc
Siemens Healthineers is a healthcare organization offering digital services to its cloud-connected customers. It communicates customer data to PoP edges via Teamplay, a software service built within Azure. By using Azure Arc, Siemens could set governance rules for different healthcare units remotely, while keeping their customers’ critical data in their on-premises network.
With privacy rules varying among health providers, customers' data must be secured while sending it back and forth across the cloud environment. Owing to this critical constraint, Siemens needed a mechanism to communicate from the PoP edges to the cloud, without the patient data being sent to the cloud.
With Azure Arc, Siemens found a flexible and scalable way to connect hospital machines by running Kubernetes clusters in different locations. It also helped monitor and secure all its applications from Azure, where its Teamplay software runs.
Here, Azure Arc has been the key technology, allowing the business to view and manage all their infrastructure, policies and assets, from a single control plane in Azure. This is irrespective of the application running in their on-premises network or at machines in the PoP edges or in the cloud.
Why should your business consider Azure Arc?
- Businesses can manage their public cloud data running inside or outside the Azure environment through a single cloud-native management interface.
- Businesses can leverage all the compliance and security standards provisioned by the Azure security center within and outside Azure. Policies and tags can be automatically rolled out to all of your VMs registered with Azure Arc.
- Businesses can also use the monitoring and insights utilities of the Azure monitor for all cloud-based resources registered with Azure Arc regardless of them being in Azure or not.
- Enterprises can run cloud-native applications packaged and deployed as microservices in VMs or Kubernetes clusters registered in Azure Arc. You can manage Kubernetes apps across multiple environments using DevOps techniques.
- If you are running a VM in another public cloud, you can register it with the Azure resource manager via the Azure Arc. And the VMs deployed outside Azure use an isolated software agent called connected machines, very similar to the VM agents in Azure.
- You can create custom locations on top of your Kubernetes cluster backed by Azure Arc, ultimately setting them as your target locations to deploy Azure instances seamlessly.
“Wherever they are from” is a key motto behind Azure Arc. It is robust and infrastructure agnostic. Azure Arc extends the Azure management across hybrid cloud models to provide a unified management model. Microsoft also highlights unmatched security for your applications across your hybrid cloud infrastructure.