What’s in Microsoft Azure Stack

Some BOM’ing of Azure Stack:

Azure Stack is made of two basic components, the underlying infrastructure that customers purchase from one of Microsoft’s certified partners (initially Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo) and software that is licensed from Microsoft.The software includes basic IaaS functions that make up a cloud, such as virtual machines, storage and virtual networking. Azure Stack includes some platform-as-a-service (PaaS) application-development features including the Azure Container Service and Microsoft’s Azure Functions serverless computing software, plus MySQL and SQL Server support. It comes with Azure Active Directory for user authentication.Customers also have access to a wide range of third-party apps from the Azure Marketplace, including OS images from companies like Red Hat and SuSE, and templates that can be installed to run programs like Cloud Foundry, Kubernetes and Mesosphere.On the hardware side, Azure Stack runs on a hyperconverged infrastructure stack that Microsoft and its hardware vendors have certified. The smallest production-level Azure Stack deployment is a four-server rack with three physical switches and a lifecycle management server host. Individual racks can scale up to 12 servers, and eventually, multiple racks can be scaled together. Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo are initial launch partners. Cisco plans to offer a certified Azure Stack platform based on its UCS hardware line by the end of 2017 and Huawei will roll out Azure Stack support by the end of 2018.IDC Data Center Networking Research Analyst Brad Casemore says he believes customers will need to run at least a 10 Gigabit Ethernet cabling with dual-port mixing. Converged network interface cards, support for BGP and data center bridging are important too. Microsoft estimates that a full-sized, 12-rack server unit of Azure Stack can supply about 400 virtual machines with 2 CPUs and 7 GB of RAM, with resiliency.

And Lydia explains the “people want private cloud ¯_(ツ)_/¯” angle:

“This is definitely a plus in the Microsoft portfolio,” says Gartner VP and Distinguished Analyst Lydia Leong, but she says it’s not right for every customer. “I don’t think this is a fundamental game-changer in the dynamics of the IaaS market,” she notes, but “this is going to be another thing to compel Microsoft-centric organizations to use Azure.”

Leong expects this could be beneficial for customers who want to use Azure but some reason such as regulations, data sensitivity, or location of data prevents them from using the public cloud. If a customer has sensitive data they’re not willing to put in the public cloud, they could deploy Azure Stack behind their firewall to process data, then relatively easily interact with applications and data in the public cloud.

Source: “Azure Stack: Microsoft’s private-cloud platform and what IT pros need to know about it,” Brandon Butler

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  1. Preference in nomenclature is nodes over servers; and lifecycle management server host is technically referred to as the HLH or Hardware Lifecycle Host. ; )

    This is an engineered solution and customers only need to supply 2x 10GbE ports on their Network for the uplinks from the ToRs in Azure Stack.

  2. I’m skeptical about this. I’m sure this is superior to their “Cloud in a box” solution they teamed with Dell to provide about 4-5 years ago that was never adopted. My supposition is that this will require very tight configuration control up and down the technology stack to ensure it meets whatever service level objectives it promises but I can’t see how it would keep up with all the new features that Azure would offer. Imagine trying to build a CI/CD pipeline on this that corresponded to what you were trying to do in the “public cloud”. Would Pivotal, for example, keep updating BOSH for wherever the Azure stack is in its release cycle to keep up with security and other considerations.

    We do a lot of Cloud solutions for the federal government and highly regulated industries. With direct connect and the right foundational components we haven’t really encountered real situations that cannot be architected to permit even the DOD to host its most sensitive unclassified data in Azure or AWS.

    Just my humble opinion but people who are going to be really attracted to this are not really going to be adopting “cloudy” architectures but using it as a way to conduct legacy IT where they’ve settled on this stack as a way to help them continue doing things the way they’ve always done it but I’m not sure I would trust the security of this solution in the long run if I’m really committed to getting Cloud going in an organization.

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