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Microsoft Gives Azure Lighthouse MSP Tool Some Attention

Azure Lighthouse, Microsoft's most ambitious managed service provider tooling effort in years, is now sporting important new features and integrations with Microsoft's main partner portal.

Microsoft released Azure Lighthouse last July during the Microsoft Inspire partner conference. It represents a way for MSPs to manage Microsoft Azure tenants for many customers using technology that provides visibility and control to both the partner and the customer. Azure Lighthouse is free for partners to use on top of their existing Azure subscriptions.

Microsoft Azure Chief Technology Officer Mark Russinovich provided an update on Azure Lighthouse progress in a blog post in the wake of Build, Microsoft's biggest annual conference for developers.

Without getting into specific numbers, Russinovich hinted at adoption momentum behind Lighthouse and emphasized the scalability of the platform. "Thousands of partners and enterprises use Azure Lighthouse to manage services across Azure tenants, representing tens of thousands of subscriptions and more than one million Azure resources from Azure Resource Manager -- a unified control plane," Russinovich said.

Early adopters of Azure Lighthouse from the July 2019 launch included DXC Technology, Nordcloud, Rackspace, Sentia, Dynatrace, Ingram Micro and Veeam. In his post, Russinovich highlighted new partners, including ClearDATA, Yorktel and Vandis.

Azure Lighthouse is primarily about Azure delegated resource management. It's designed to overcome many of the challenges from one of the Azure management methods MSPs have needed to use in the past -- having the customer create accounts on their Azure tenant for the partner to use to manage that tenant. With Azure Lighthouse, the partner uses their own Azure account to manage the customers' Azure tenants. With the system designed for multi-tenant management by partners from the start, both customers and their partners have more visibility and control over what the other can see and do.

Other than management at scale, benefits for Microsoft partners include being able to view and manage all their customers' tenants from one interface, the ability to support multiple licensing models and the protection of their intellectual property. That last point results from the way Azure Lighthouse allows the partner to run their proprietary automation scripts from their own tenant. With other management methods, partners would have to run their proprietary scripts from within the customers' tenants, putting that IP out of partners' control and making it harder to safeguard.

Russinovich summarized a series of updates to Azure Lighthouse that Microsoft has been rolling out over the last few months.

Among the most significant is the ability for partners to monitor the status of backup jobs across their customer base. One element is Backup Explorer, an Azure Monitor Workbook for single pane-of-glass monitoring of an entire Azure backup estate. Backup Explorer went into preview in February, and one of the key use cases is for MSPs running Azure Lighthouse to monitor multiple tenants. Similarly, new Azure Backup reports also support Azure Lighthouse. These additions add backup monitoring to the compliance and security monitoring that partners can already perform for customers from within Azure Lighthouse.

Another recent capability allows service providers with Azure Lighthouse to use Azure Monitor Logs across their customer tenants to trigger notification and onboarding workflows for their teams.

As part of Microsoft's broad effort to transition more of its partner functionality to the central portal of Microsoft Partner Center, certain Azure Lighthouse functionality is being swept up in that migration. For MSPs who want to use the Azure Marketplace to create either public or private Azure Lighthouse offers for customers, they now draft and publish those from within Partner Center. Previously they needed to create the offers from the separate Cloud Partner Portal.

Among other changes and improvements, Azure Lighthouse is now a FEDRAMP High certified service, the help and support experiences have been improved and customers have more self-service options.

Recognizing that few customers are entirely in the cloud, Microsoft is also starting to explore ways to help MSPs extend Azure Lighthouse for hybrid management.

"Many MSP partners rely on Azure Lighthouse, and now Azure Arc, to achieve a unified management solution in these advanced scenarios. MSPs can extend their service offerings to manage their customers' on-premises environments through Azure Resource Manager, managing resources at scale and governing compliance using Azure policy," Russinovich said.

Russinovich promised more Azure Lighthouse-related detail would come out of Inspire 2020 in July.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 27, 2020


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