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At its Ignite 2021 virtual conference this week, Microsoft announced updates across Azure Arc, its service that brings Azure products and management to multiple clouds, edge devices, and datacenters with auditing, compliance, and role-based access. Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes, which launched in preview last May, is now generally available. And a new offering, Azure Arc-enabled Machine Learning, is entering preview starting today.

The benefits of AI and machine learning can feel intangible at times, but surveys show this hasn’t deterred enterprises from adopting the technology. Business use of AI grew 270% from 2015 to 2019, according to Gartner, while Deloitte says 62% of respondents to its corporate October 2018 report deployed some form of AI, up from 53% in 2017. But adoption doesn’t always meet with success, as the roughly 25% of companies that have seen half their AI projects fail will tell you.

Microsoft says Azure Arc-enabled Machine Learning and Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes are designed to help companies strike a balance between enjoying the benefits of the cloud and maintaining apps and workloads on-premises for regulatory and operational reasons. With the new services, companies can deploy Kubernetes clusters and build machine learning models where data lives, as well as managing applications and models from a single dashboard.

“By extending machine learning capabilities to hybrid and multi-cloud environments, customers can run training models where the data lives while leveraging existing infrastructure investments,” Azure general manager Arpan Shah said in a press release. “This reduces data movement and network latency while meeting security and compliance requirements … In one click, data scientists can now use familiar tools to build machine learning models consistently and reliably across on-premises, multi-cloud, and edge.”


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Microsoft first announced Arc, which competes with Google’s Anthos and Amazon’s AWS Outpust service, at Ignite 2019. Beyond allowing containerized workloads from anywhere, Arc supports hardware running Linux and Windows Server and features the ability to bring services like Azure SQL Database and Azure Database for PostgreSQL to datacenter platforms. Developers can use Arc’s controls to build containerized apps that take advantage of the Azure tools of their choice, like Azure Resource Manager, Azure Shell, Azure Portal, API, and Azure Policy, while IT teams can launch and configure the apps using GitOps-based configuration management.

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