U-Flex and Azure Arc: a hybrid solution that supports innovation and growth
Companies in Luxembourg and beyond need smart solutions that help them to address regulatory requirements like data protection and sovereignty. But at the same time, they have to plan for their innovation and growth – part of which is achieved by accessing cloud-based solutions, whether it’s in a public or local infrastructure. With those constraints in mind, Telindus deployed Microsoft’s Azure Arc solution in its Luxembourg datacenters. Audric Lhoas, Product Management Team Leader at Telindus and Hans Verbeeck, Microsoft Partner Technology Strategist, go over what really matters to their clients and how a hybrid solution like U-Flex and Azure Arc enable them to reach their goals.
Telindus deployed, with Microsoft, an innovative Azure cloud solution on the U-Flex platform. Could you tell us more about this solution ?
Audric Lhoas – The U-Flex platform is a local datacentre solution launched by Telindus in 2008. Since we deployed Azure Arc on the platform last year, our customers can deploy Microsoft Azure enabled services within it. They can control the deployed services from the Azure portal and therefore control the platform. Everything is still processing locally on the U-Flex platform in Luxembourg and customers can also use local tools, such as Kubernetes-native tools, to interact with those services.
Hans Verbeeck – Customers need infrastructure that is sometimes in the public cloud and other times on the premises of a local cloud. Sometimes they can deploy services in the public cloud in the Microsoft datacentres, but other times they have very specific requirements with regards to sovereignty or control. Telindus is one of our first partners where we Arc-enabled their local infrastructure offering so that our joint customers can benefit from all of the innovation and security that comes from the cloud, while keeping the residency of their workload in Luxembourg. Through this alliance with Telindus we offer their customers this flexibility, this choice that we couldn’t just offer by ourselves.
What are the biggest challenges your clients are facing and how can your solution help to address them?
Audric – A lot of customers and organisations need to transition to a more modern infrastructure that can provide more services, typically in a public cloud. Yet our customers also want to limit their investments. They have an existing platform which they need to maintain and that they still need to improve and make evolve. So, one of the ways we approach the transition to a public cloud is by enabling U-Flex with Azure Arc. In this way, our customers can already transform some applications to be cloud-enabled even if they’re still on their legacy platform. In other words, they don’t go to the cloud yet but they cloud-enable their infrastructure, their services, their apps, etc. They can already benefit from some cloud features but without making a big investment.
Hans – Our customers have needs that at first glance look to be conflicting. They’re bound by, and want to comply with, local legislation. On the other hand, they want and need to innovate. However, a lot of innovation today is delivered through the public cloud. With the Azure Arc technology, we create a bridge between the public cloud and the local infrastructure that U-Flex provides. The customers can then deal with these challenges concretely.
Can you talk a bit more about sovereignty?
Audric – There are different criteria for sovereignty. In terms of data residency, everything is stored in Luxembourg. This can be either on the U-Flex platform or on our customers’ premises as we can deploy the same solution in their existing infrastructure. On an operational level, the U-Flex platform is managed and operated by Telindus, a support PSF, i.e. we are regulated by the local regulator and we’re subject to the “secret professionel”.
Hans –Azure Arc allows customers to have a consistent management layer and visibility layer over their services, regardless of where they may reside. We create as much service parity as possible between all these different environments. If they run containers, they can use the same container platform in the public cloud as in the more sovereign cloud. The same goes for AI services. This is the type of parity that we want to provide to our customers together with our partners.
What are the two main things about the solution that your clients should be excited about?
Audric – One important element, which we already talked about, is data residency. The other main one is features. Our customers can opt for a transition from an IaaS platform which only provides virtual machines to deploying all Azure Arc enabled services: Kubernetes, functions, databases… They can control these services from a control plane in the cloud, and those still need to be monitored. With Azure Arc, we can use Azure Monitor to monitor U-Flex, Azure Backup for backup, and Microsoft Defender and Azure Sentinel for security, to process the platform logs and get all the benefits offered and powered by the public cloud. This alliance is not only bringing features but also additional security to U-Flex. It’s bringing add-on services to our customers which they may already have but at the scale of our local platform.
How do you see the future of this solution? Will new features be developed?
Hans –I expect us to add even more of these capabilities to the U-Flex platform as we make it more powerful.
Today we allow some cloud services to be deployed to the U-Flex environment, like container platforms and data services. Microsoft’s new services are being released very frequently in the public cloud – most recently a number of AI-related technologies. It’s clear that our customers also want to run those workloads in their sovereign clouds. Without confirming that this is going to be happening, the requests from our customers are there and this is something that we’ll need to address going forward. We also need as much intelligence on the edge, whether this is in a datacenter or an IoT device. The commitment of Microsoft to hybrid cloud and to multi-cloud is very clear. For that, we’ll need to make sure that we keep the intelligence of the edge going up with the intelligence of the public cloud. Our clients clearly want extreme safety, data privacy, and data protection measures in place for everything that they do with AI. These technologies will become more and more implemented in more and more places. We’ll have to deploy them and deliver them in more and more locations such as U-Flex.
Audric – Whenever Microsoft brings out new features they are done in collaboration with Telindus so we test them and give feedback. We’ll continue building on this partnership.