An introduction to Microsoft Azure Stack

At January 29 2015 Microsoft released the Technical Preview 1 of Azure Stack. Azure Stack is software that will bring the Microsoft Azure public cloud experience and services to your datacenter!

Azure Stack has the same portal look and feel as the Azure public cloud portal. Azure Stack also has the same API. And Azure Stack will be able to run almost all the same services as Azure public cloud.

This offers customers a choice. They can decide to deploy applications in public cloud offered by Microsoft or service providers, or in their own private cloud. There is no need to adjust code. A single script can be used to deploy applications to Azure or Azure Stack.

azurestack

Azure Stack is targeted at enterprises and service providers.

During the year 2016 Microsoft will release various Technical Previews. The general availability of Azure Stack is expected at Q4 2016.

Azure Stack TP1 can be downloaded from this location! Mind the hardware requirements. The download itself is 10GB and will install on a single node. Multi-node deployment is not  supported in TP1.

If your server does not have the minimum of 96GB of internal memory, no worries. This blogpost explains how to adjust the installation files to circumnavigate that requirement. Using the adjustment Azure Stack was installed on a 32GB server.

This blogpost explains how to run Azure Stack on VMware Workstation.

This video has some great info on Azure Stack

Available services in TP1

Azure Stack TP1 release primary goal is  to get customers used to Azure Stack and provide feedback to Microsoft. Azure Stack TP1 provides both IaaS and PaaS services. However PaaS is limited to WebApps. More services will be added in future Technical Previews.

IaaS services in TP 1 are Virtual Machines, V-Nets, Load Balancing, VPN Gateway, Blob and Table storage .

Azure Resource Manager (ARM)templates

Cloud is all about innovation and adding value to the business. One of the ways to add value is quick provisioning of applications. Azure Resource Manager templates greatly help to automate deployments.

At Github many ARM templates are available which can be used on Azure Stack. One of the templates will automatically  create:

  • A Virtual Network
  • One Storage Account
  • One external load balancer
  • One VM configured as Domain Controller for a new forest with a single domain

Technical background of Azure Stack

Azure Stack is not the same as the current Windows Azure Pack. Although the vision is the same, Azure Stack is under the hood a different technical solution. Azure Stack for example does not use System Center components. It does use Hyper-V as hypervisor.

Azure Stack requires about 9 virtual machines for management of the cloud. The roles of these VM’s are

  • SQLVM for storage of metadata
  • PortalVM for publishing the management portal
  • xRPVM for the resource providers
  • NCVM for Network Controller
  • NATVM for networking
  • MuxVM for networking
  • BGPVM for networking
  • ADVM for Active Directory
  • ACSVM for Azure Consistent Storage. This blog by Mark Scholman explains Azure Consistent Storage.
    AzurestackPOCArchitecture

Documentation

Online documentation on Azure Stack can be found here. 

Make sure to read the blogs of Mark Scholman on Azure Stack.

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