Channeling the Cloud

With CPS, Microsoft Tests Demand for Cloud-in-a-Box

Microsoft's new CPS Standard systems will likely test the mood among partners and organizations for turnkey on-premises Azure appliances.

If there's an appetite for running Microsoft Azure on-premises, evidence of that should start to surface in 2016.

That's when the Azure Stack software for Windows 2016 is scheduled to appear as was noted in this column back in June. It's also when a scaled-down, more affordable version of Microsoft's Cloud Platform System (CPS) will be available.

It was just more than a year ago that Microsoft made a big splash at an event in San Francisco with the launch of CPS Premium. So far only Dell has offered the CPS Premium. The Dell CPS Premium offering is clearly only suited for the largest of enterprises, such as multinational banks, and services providers. Each CPS Premium rack includes 32 CPU nodes and up to 282TB of storage and costs upward of $1 million.

For more conventional datacenters and services providers, Microsoft and Dell jointly launched the new CPS Standard at the annual Dell World conference, held in Austin, Texas, this fall. The new CPS will be available in a single rack-based converged system running as few as four nodes and intended for workloads consisting of 100 to 400 virtual machines. It can scale up to 16 nodes. CPS Standard will provide the functionality that's consistent with Microsoft's Azure public cloud, but brings it on-premises, allowing for hybrid or private clouds based on the same infrastructure. Microsoft says it's based on the same architectural blueprint as CPS Premium.

[Ed.'s note: Since this column's writing, Hewlett Packard Enterprise unveiled its own Azure appliance for CPS Standard. Read about it here.]

Dell says the CPS Standard edition can be deployed in as little as three hours and, like the larger edition and the public cloud, updates and patching are handled automatically for customers. The turnkey system consists of a 2U rack loaded with the Dell PowerEdge C6320 server and has networking and storage designed using Microsoft's Storage Spaces available with hard disk drives and SSDs. It's run with Dell Cloud Manager.

"This really brings hybrid computing to everyone," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who joined Dell founder Michael Dell on stage during the Dell World keynote. "The combination of the work that we're doing between Azure and CPS, I think is the way to deliver hybrid computing and its future for our customers."

It'll initially be offered with the same Microsoft software stack that runs the premium version -- Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and the Windows Azure Pack. Once Windows Server 2016 and the new Azure Stack option ships next year, it'll be an option for Standard, as well, the companies say. The new CPS Standard systems are expected to cost around $300,000. It's still a big-ticket item, but it will likely test the mood for turnkey on-premises Azure appliances versus whether organizations and partners choose the build approach with Microsoft's forthcoming Azure Stack.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.