Details on Microsoft Azure Stack; hybrid cloud as a service

Jeffrey Snover, Technical Fellow & Lead Architect for Enterprise Cloud Group, Microsoft delivered a very interesting presentation in May 2017 during DEVintersection 2017 in Orlando.

He talked about Azure Stack and told some very intersting details about what it is. And what it is not.

In short: Azure Stack is Private Cloud as a Service platform which is kept consistent with Azure public cloud.

The presentation can be seen here. 

Azure Stack is a totally new product and new platform. It is NOT a replacement for Hyper-V/System Center or VMware vSphere server virtualization platforms.

It is a platform which allows customers to focus on the core business (develop and run applications). Customers do not need to care about maintaining the system (keeping the light on).

Azure Stack is *required* to remain consistency with Azure. It certainly is not a static platform.

Microsoft strongly believes cloud is a model and not a location.

Azure Stack solves the issue of latency. Organizations wanting to use Azure services are facing latency if they use for example the Amsterdam region of Azure while the office is located in South Africa. With Azure Stack, service providers in South Africa can deliver Azure services close to where the customers are. Mind Microsoft announced a new Azure region in South Africa.

Introduction

First a little bit of introduction of Azure Stack. Azure Stack basically is  public Azure in your own datacenter or delivered by a service provider. Azure Stack delivers both IaaS and PaaS services.  It has the same management portal, same API’s, same Powershell and many of the services Azure provide. It even is charged like Azure in a pay as you go (OPEX) cost model. The costs of usage are consolidated into a single Azure bill.

The platform is delivered in a rack with server, network and storage capacity.

Some customers do not like the variable costs as  a result of pay as you go. For those scenario’s a capacity based cost model will be available.

A use case is for instance in countries with strict rules on where data should be stored. Russia for example demands all personal data to be stored in Russia. Dutch TNO NIPO for that reason deployed Azure Stack in a Russian datacenter. Details here.

Other examples are cruise ships with limited connection to Internet and factories. For a factory like in automotive you do not want robots to be controled by software running in public cloud over WAN connections. Lose of the connection would mean a stop of production costing 100.000s of Dollars per hour.

Azure Stack is an appliance. So customers order a complete configuration with hardware and Azure Stack pre-installed on it. Azure Stack will be made available by HPE, Dell eMC and Lenovo initially. Later in 2017 Cisco will join. Huwai announced at June 9 2017 they will deliver Azure Stack as well. Huawei Hybrid Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack is expected to be commercially available by Q1 of 2018.

The solution name for Dell will be ‘DELL EMC CLOUD FOR MICROSOFT AZURE STACK‘.

Dell will offer a single node Azure Stack platform for developpers. This will cost around $20,0000 list price. The 4-node system will list at $300,000.

The HPE ProLiant for Microsoft Azure Stack hardware solution is orderable now with hardware pricing and support starting at $300K-$400K, depending on the configuration. More information on the pay-as-you-use software pricing is available from Microsoft.

These are the specs of the HPE solution

Minimal number of servers is 4. Initially the max number of servers will be 12. In the first version of Azure Stack it will not be possible to add servers. So customers will need to think about the initial capacity for the first 6 months. Around early 2018 a feature allowing to add servers will become available.

Dell is considering a pay as you go model for the hardware as well.

 

While Azure can be used as a private cloud, it does have multitenancy capabilities. So the solution is for sure to be used by service providers.

Azure Stack should be regarded as a black box or appliance. Microsoft will manage the patching of hardware and the Azure Stack components. Customers should care about about development and running of applications. Customers should not care about what in running under the hood. Customers do not even have permissions to log on to virtual machines responsible for the Azure Stack function.

Azure Stack is an integrated system. The hardware vendor delivers servers, switches. Microsoft does the lifecycle management of the system.

Microsoft will do the patching and software updates for the customer. It is possible to have customers do it themselves if Azure Stack is disconnect from internet. However if the latest updates are over 6 months installed, Microsoft will no longer support Azure Stack.

There won’t  be a lot of system administration to be done once Azure Stack is installed. The system administrators job should evolve into tasks like developping a DevOps operations, develop CI/CD, automated billing etc.

System admins are notified about issues and are presented suggestions to solve it.

Azure Stack will be available around Mid 2017. This depends on the hardware vendors.

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