Microsoft unveiled its new Azure Stack offering at last year’s Ignite conference as a solution that would enable users to easily run Azure cloud services in their own on-premises datacenters, thus supporting the increasingly hybrid nature of organizations’ IT environments.
Microsoft Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson, speaking at the 2015 Ignite keynote, described Azure Stack this way:
“This is literally us giving you all of Azure for you to run in your datacenters. What this brings you is you get that great IaaS and PaaS environment in your datacenters. You have incredible capability like a unified application model that gives you a one-click deployment experience for even the most complex, multi-tier applications and then you get that cloud-inspired infrastructure. We’re giving you the same software controller that we built for our network, the name is the same, network controller. We’re giving you our load balancing. We’re giving you all the storage innovation.”
Azure Stack represents an evolution of Microsoft’s older Cloud OS solution, which also promised to give partners and organizations the ability to build Azure environments in their datacenters, but suffered from low uptake due to its complexity. Azure Stack shares a common architecture, application model and DevOps tool set with Azure, according to Microsoft. This minimizes the work that developers need to do to make sure their apps work on both Azure and Azure Stack, as well as lets IT pros extend on-premises apps to the cloud without having to drastically change the tools they use for automation or management. Microsoft has not given a specific date for Azure Stack’s release, but because it is linked with the company’s 2016 wave of server releases, it will likely become generally available by year’s end.
While Microsoft claims 100,000 new Azure subscriptions per month, it also recognizes that many enterprises “still have business concerns around moving fully to the public cloud, such as data sovereignty or regulatory considerations.” So they are in limbo between the public cloud and on-premise; hence the need for a hybrid cloud approach that provides consistency across private, hosted, and public clouds.
Among the capabilities:
• Azure and Azure Stack feature a standardized architecture (e.g., the same portal, a unified application model, common DevOps tools); thus, developers can offer the same end-user experience as Azure delivers.
• IT professionals can transform on-premise datacenter resources into Azure IaaS/PaaS services while maintaining oversight and corporate governance, using the same management and automation tools that Microsoft uses to operate Azure.
For heavily-regulated companies, control where data resides. Highly regulated companies (SOX, HIPAA, FDA, etc.) having their data hosted at a Microsoft Azure datacenter doesn’t typically meet all of their regulatory requirements. and there is a growing demand for enterprise cloud apps, with a hybrid cloud platform product that helps enterprises deploy Azure Services in a private cloud environment.
So, businesses have the freedom to decide where applications and workloads reside – overcoming one of the most vehement objections to the cloud.
Azure Stack and Dynamics
The new Dynamics AX, which will be launching on Azure first, apparently in March. The plans to bring the new AX to private cloud and on-premise customers hinge on the release of Azure Stack for the Windows Server 2016 wave of products.
In December Microsoft furthered its pursuit of enterprise analytics with the acquisition of Metanautix, a company that makes it possible for businesses to pull together all their data and gain insights into it. Metanautix’s product can pull information in from a variety of private and public cloud data sources including traditional data warehouses, NoSQL databases like Cassandra and business systems like Salesforce. Once it’s aggregated, businesses can use SQL to query the resulting data pipeline in order to glean insights from the information. Microsoft isn’t saying much about its plans for Metanautix’s technology, but it can be expected to roll it into products like SQL Server and the Cortana Analytics Suite.
Why Azure anyway?
Managed Web Sites
Window Azure has a special mode of use just for 2-tier web sites, called Windows Azure Web Sites. Both Microsoft’s SQL Database or MySQL databases can be used. WAWS web sites use a shared VM pool, and provisioning happens in just seconds, not minutes. Customers can promote to reserved VMs if they choose. WAWS web sites are fast, easy, and superbly managed.
WEB FRAMEWORK SUPPORT
Window Azure Web Sites also support common open source frameworks, including DotNetNuke, Drupal, Joomla, Orchard, and WordPress. Web developers can quickly provision web sites with their desired framework.
WEB DEPLOYMENT FREEDOM
Web developers work in different ways, and there’s no single way to deploy. Windows Azure Web Sites support several popular methods of deployment, including Web Deploy, FTP, Git, and TFS. In addition, the deployment is conveniently always to a single “server”, even when running multiple server VMs in the cloud. WAWS takes care of distributing new and updated deployment files to the individual VM instances.
Window Azure now has Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) support, to complement the Platform-as-a-Service (Paas) support. IaaS Virtual Machines are based on VHDs which are fully portable between cloud and on-prem and those are also persistent, making Windows Azure viable at last for single-server solutions and for running server products such as AD, SQL Server, or SharePoint Server.
Non-Microsoft OS & Database support
Traditionally, Microsoft has offered platform services based on Windows Server and SQL Server. With the new platform there is support for Linux virtual machines and MySQL databases. This means a broader range of software can now run in the Microsoft cloud even SAP.
VM Image Gallery
When creating Virtual Machines, select from a gallery of pre-configured images. For example, install Windows Server 2008 plain, or with SQL Server also installed or add your own VM images to the gallery.
Window Azure virtual machines is easily provisioned, configured, and managed in the Windows Azure portal. Once you connect to and set up a VM, capture its disk to create a reusable image that is added to your VM image gallery.
The traditional Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) mode–now known as Cloud Services–not only remains, it’s getting new and updated services. An expanded virtual networking capability can interface with enterprise VPN appliances to enable hybrid cloud scenarios where segments of your local network are joined to your cloud assets. Windows Azure Media Services, a new service in limited preview right now, will allow uploading, transcoding, and delivery of media content such as video. A new identity service is coming that will extend the identity federation we currently have in the Access Control Service with expanded capabilities.
The New Portal
Window Azure gets a huge usability boost in a cutting-edge new . HTML-based, management portal that can also be used on mobile devices such as iPads and Windows 8 slates. The new portal also provides a view of built-in metrics for WAWS, Cloud Services, and Virtual Machines.
New Data Centers
Two new data centres were added recently (West US and East US), bringing the number of Windows Azure data centers to 8 (four in the US, two in Europe, and two in Asia). In addition, there is supporting worldwide infrastructure including a 24-node edge cache CDN network.