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With Azure Lighthouse, Microsoft Provides a Scalable MSP Tool for the Cloud

Microsoft is taking a big step in the direction of making Azure a friendlier platform for managed service providers (MSPs).

The theoretical appeal of Azure for MSPs has always been clear. Customers could move or create infrastructure on Microsoft's public cloud, and Microsoft partners, with far more cloud expertise than the average customer, could provision and manage that infrastructure on their behalf.

In reality, that has been difficult with native Microsoft tools. A number of third-party solutions have sprung up to help partners manage multiple customer clouds.

At the Microsoft Inspire conference for partners this week in Las Vegas, however, Microsoft is highlighting a new native toolset called Azure Lighthouse that addresses those challenges for partners in a scalable way.

"We...want to make Azure your best platform for delivering managed services to your customers. And so, we're investing in you with a new service that we call Azure Lighthouse," said Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft corporate vice president for One Commercial Partner, in her Monday Inspire keynote address. "Azure Lighthouse builds partners in by design into Azure by enabling multi-customer, multi-tenant management at scale in a secure environment with automation so that Azure becomes your best platform to deliver those managed services to your customers. And we're going to continue to invest in that service for you."

The announcement comes as Microsoft is strongly encouraging partners to lead with Azure as a replacement for aging Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 systems. SQL Server 2008 reached the end of support last week and the 2008 versions of Windows Server lose support in January.

"We estimate about 60 percent of our server install base is still on Windows Server and SQL Server 2008. That's 24 million instances. That is a $50 billion market opportunity that you should be going after right now, this year, because those customers are vulnerable and exposed," Schuster said. "You know you could easily migrate those VMs into Azure and remove that vulnerability for them."

While the migration may or may not be easy, the general availability this month of Azure Lighthouse could make management of multiple customers much more efficient for partners.

Microsoft Azure Chief Technology Officer Mark Russinovich described Azure Lighthouse in a blog post as a single control plane for service providers to view and manage Azure across all their customers. A new delegated resource concept within Lighthouse simplifies cross-tenant governance and operations, Russinovich said.

Russinovich claimed substantial scalability and automation for Lighthouse: "Partners can now manage tens of thousands of resources from thousands of distinct customers from their own Azure portal or CLI context. Because customer resources are visible to service providers as Azure resources in their own tenant, service providers can easily automate status monitoring, and applying create, update, change, delete (CRUD) changes across the resources of many customers from a single location."

Microsoft officials credited the Azure Expert MSP community and other Azure-specialist partners with helping in the development and iteration of Azure Lighthouse.

In a Microsoft video describing Azure Lighthouse, Jason Rinehart, platform architect for managed services at 10th Magnitude, said the tool, with its hooks into the marketplace, is helping his company get customers live on Azure faster. "Some of the key benefits that we're seeing are greater operational efficiency because of the single view [and] faster time to onboard because of the new automated process and because of this new marketplace," Rinehart said.

Another partner in the video, Reed Wiedower, CTO of New Signature, pointed to the role-based access control as a key feature that protects a customer's security and control while giving a partner a way to manage multiple customers and subscriptions. "By being able to apply the same policy to the same sets of resources, all at the same time, it reduces the chance of human error creeping into the equation," Wiedower said.

Other early adopters of Azure Lighthouse include DXC Technology, Nordcloud, Rackspace, Sentia, Dynatrace, Ingram Micro and Veeam.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 16, 2019


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