This summer Microsoft is expected to go GA with their Azure Stack offering. If you are not familiar with this, think of it as “Azure in a box”. This would get installed in your datacenter or offered up by a service provider for you to consume. The release of Azure Stack has been a long while coming as it was first announced in late 2015. Currently Technical Preview 3 (TP3) is available for evaluation so some of this info could change. Everything that I am about to talk about is publicly available on Microsoft’s website.
A Walk Down Memory Lane..
Remember those days when you needed to spin up a VM to test something. There wasn’t a lot of choices. You had to either reach out to IT to request that they spin up a VM for you and provide you access, or you could spin one up on your laptop using a type 2 hypervisor which had its limitations. Typically, this had to go through an approval process that sometimes took weeks. For those of you graybeards, who have been around the industry as long as I have, you didn’t even have the luxury of virtualization and you had to request a server. How did we ever get anything done back then?
Not so long ago companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google started to offer up hyperscale environments where you could allocate resources and pay for them as you use them. The sheer size of these environments allowed them to offer these resources at a low-price point. This allowed companies to move from a CAPEX to an OPEX model which started the evolution of the public cloud. However, there are many companies that have either security concerns or compliance requirements that keep them from taking advantage of the public cloud and all it has to offer or those who wish to have complete control of their data and resources.
Enter the private cloud, hosted in your datacenter or a service provider’s datacenter. Companies must evolve and to stay relevant in the industry they need to focus on providing value to their customers. In the case of the private cloud, those customers could be your own internal business units. These BUs need the capability to have self-service deployment and agility.
Prior to Azure Stack there was Azure Pack which provided these capabilities. This was a big step in the right direction as it provided a lot of these capabilities but there was something missing. What if you had a workload running on Azure Pack and you wanted to be able to run it in public Azure without having to make any changes. This was not easily done as the APIs were not consistent. Microsoft Azure had already seen so much growth that a new user experience was in order which gave Microsoft a chance to build a new portal and a new deployment model (resource manager). This left a lot of users in a state of confusion having to keep up with learning and supporting both.
Fast Forward to Today..
Now that Azure Stack has been developed, you get consistency across both private and public clouds. The APIs are consistent, the deployment models are consistent, and the user experience is consistent. Users can now log in with the same identities utilizing ADFS or Azure AD. Developers can use the same tools that they are familiar with. Think of Azure Stack as being an extension of Azure bringing agility and faster innovation to cloud computing, all behind your firewall. This allows for a true hybrid cloud experience.
Purchasing, Licensing, Pricing and Support..
At GA, Azure Stack is going to be available through three hardware vendors, Dell EMC, HPE, and Lenovo on preapproved hardware, delivered as an integrated system, with software preinstalled. Cisco recently announced they will be joining the other three hardware manufacturers. Expect to see their offering soon after GA. I wouldn’t be surprised to see other manufacturers jump in on this as well.
The software licensing will be available via EA and CSP only. If you have an existing EA Azure subscription, you can use that same one for consuming Azure Stack. CSP providers will be able to use the same tenant subscriptions for customers as well. MSDN, Free trials, and Biz Spark offers cannot be used with Azure Stack. You will be able to use on-premises Windows Server and SQL Server license with Azure Stack as long as you comply with product licensing. If you BYOL you will only be charged for consumption on the base VM.
Azure Stack services will be priced the same as Azure, on a pay-as-you-use model. At GA, the following services will be charged on a consumption basis: Virtual Machines, Azure Storage, App Service, and Azure Functions. You will be billed for Azure Stack usage as part of your regular Azure invoice. See below chart for how those services will be metered.
Image credit to Microsoft
With Azure Stack, there will be two support contracts, one purchased from the hardware vendor and one from Microsoft. For those customers who have an existing Premiere or Azure support contract with Microsoft today, it will cover Azure Stack as well.
Azure stack brings purpose-built integrated systems to your datacenter that allows speed and agility to help you modernize your applications across a hybrid environment. It allows developers to build applications using a consistent set of services, tools, and processes. Operations is now able to deploy to the location that meets the needs of their business meeting technical and regulatory requirements, all while paying only for what you use.
For additional information on Azure Stack refer to this link.