Microsoft today at a Microsoft Inspire 2017 conference made good on a promise to deliver a local instance of the Azure cloud operating environment.
Julia White, corporate vice president for Azure marketing and security services, says Microsoft views Azure Stack as a highly differentiated offering that advances the state of hybrid cloud computing. In fact, White says, Microsoft expects hybrid cloud computing to become the primary deployment approach.
“We really see this as a durable long-term state versus being only a migration strategy to the cloud,” says White.
Microsoft has been making available Azure Stack in a technical preview mode. Azure Stack can be acquired when purchasing a new server. The first server vendors to make available platforms configured with Azure Stack include Dell EMC, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Lenovo. Support for Cisco and Huawei platforms are expected to follow.
White says pricing for Azure Stack is based on the same per usage model as the Azure cloud service. What makes Azure Stack unique is that for the first time, IT organizations can avail themselves of a common management and security plane for platforms running on-premises and in a public cloud that is based on a common set of application programming interfaces (APIs), says White. In contrast, IT organizations up until now have been forced to deploy two different stacks of software on-premises and in a public cloud that force them to master two distinct management and security planes. That common management and security plane, adds White, spans virtual machines, Docker containers and emerging serverless computing frameworks.
White says Microsoft intends to build larger instances of Azure Stack, while relying on Azure connectivity services to connect Azure Stack to Internet of Things (IoT) gateways. White says Microsoft has no plans to build a smaller instance of Azure Stack for IoT gateways.
At its core, Azure Stack is an instance of a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) designed to run a variety of cloud native applications. It remains to be seen how many customers will opt to deploy what amounts to a forklift upgrade to a new server environment versus continuing to run legacy Windows or Linux servers. At the same time, however, it’s worth noting that being able to seamlessly move workloads in and out of a public and private cloud regardless of location is a capability many IT organizations have been longing for now for the better part of a decade.