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Microsoft crams fat Azure cloud pipe into delicate on-premises biz boxes

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Amazon Web Services may be hellbent on uploading world+dog into its public cloud, but Microsoft has other ideas – and a new Azure update makes it easier for admins to consume Redmond's cloud as an add-on service for on-premises installations.

The Azure tweaks were announced by Microsoft on Tuesday and see Redmond come through on its long-stated promise to give some of the useful capabilities of Azure to people that would rather keep as much of their data on-site as possible.

New features include the general availability of Windows Azure Backup, which lets admins use a downloadable Windows Azure Backup Agent to selectively back up and recover data from Windows Server into the cloud's storage service.

Data is encrypted on-site before being chucked into the cloud, and – Microsoft says – "customers retain and manage the encryption key (meaning the data is stored entirely secured and can't be decrypted by anyone but yourself)."

Tinfoil hat wearers may scoff at this and point to the Snowden revelations about intelligence agencies' ability to subvert this.

Another feature is the Hyper-V recovery manager which helps to replicate and recover VMs between multiple locations via System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1 and SP2.

App data "always travels on your on-premise replication channel," Microsoft corporate veep Scott Guthrie wrote in a blog discussing the feature. "Only metadata (such as names of logical clouds, virtual machines, networks etc.) that is needed for orchestration is sent to Azure."

Azure also makes a greater role in Windows Server 2012, as detailed in our expansive review of the management engine.

Alongside the on-premises release, Microsoft has also made it possible to delete VM instances and attached disks in a single operation rather than forcing sysadmins to do one then the other. This feature can be extended to zap an entire cloud service out of existence.

This update follows a salvo of pure cloud-oriented upgrades Microsoft made at the start of October which saw it ink a deal between Azure and colocation-specialist Equinix to give businesses a way to tap directly into the cloud a la AWS Direct Connect, along with a dedicated GovCloud region.

But though those upgrades saw Redmond mimicking existing AWS service, this raft of features shows Microsoft floating down its own path and trying to coax on-prem businesses to dabble in Azure just a little without having to leave the safety of their own battle-tested bit barns. ®

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