Channeling the Cloud

Azure Stack Will Take Time To Reach Its Potential

Think of the first release of the on-premises cloud appliance as a modest version of Microsoft's final goal.

The Microsoft Azure Stack is set to arrive shortly, but don't expect it to be on par with the company's public cloud out of the gate.

In fact, the first appliances capable of allowing partners, hosting providers and customers to run their own native hybrid instantiations of Azure will debut with modest subsets of what Microsoft now offers in its global public cloud. Considering the architectural shift that Azure Stack will introduce -- a modern platform for cloud-native, Web-scale applications -- the incremental approach to features and scalability will likely suit most partners and customers well.

The four OEMs Microsoft has partnered with to deliver the hybrid cloud appliances -- Cisco, Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Lenovo -- are expected to roll out their respective solutions in the latter half of this year, once Azure Stack is generally available. Dell EMC last month provided some insights on what to expect from the first Azure Stack rollouts.

Dell EMC will start off with two Azure Stack offerings. One is a single-node system only intended for development and creating proofs of concept. That option, which will cost about $25,000, can't be used for deployment. The production-ready Azure Stack appliances will come in configurations of four, eight and 12 nodes. Each configuration will offer small-, medium- and high-capacity compute and storage.

The initial release will offer Azure Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) capability, allowing organizations to deploy virtual machines and server instances. And while it will include the Azure Resource Manager, which provides various platform services and functions, it will start out with a small footprint with some Web and mobile capabilities, according to Greg Colburn, a technical marketing engineer.

"Remember, this is rev 1 of the product," Colburn said during an interview at the company's Dell EMC World last month in Las Vegas. "As we iterate, Microsoft will be taking feedback from customers about what things they want to see ported down to Azure Stack from the public cloud."

Azure Stack also won't start out with support for synchronous replication for disaster recovery or clustering among multiple locations, said Mark Nouris, group vice president for hybrid cloud at Atos, a large global systems integrator and the first partner announced by Dell EMC to offer its Azure Stack appliance. Atos will build and deploy Azure Stack solutions that will run in both its own datacenters and those of its customers.

The Azure Stack implementations Atos will offer will provide orchestration and automation capabilities and will be best-suited for those running between 70 and 700 virtual machines, according to Nouris, who said configuration will lend itself well to those who want to modernize second- and third-tier SQL, SharePoint and workplace applications and bring them into a DevOps environment.

"Customers are all asking for local on-site solutions on a consumption basis," he said. "Having the private features associated with public consumption is a big advantage of 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.