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Microsoft Delays Azure Stack as It Changes Its Delivery Model

  • Get more news from WPC 2016 here.

Initially expected to be released by the end of this year, Azure Stack will instead become generally available in mid-2017, Microsoft said on Tuesday.

Azure Stack is Microsoft's emerging solution for enabling organizations to deploy private Azure cloud environments on-premises. During his Day 2 keynote presentation at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto, Scott Guthrie, head of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Group, touted Azure Stack as a key differentiator for Microsoft compared to other cloud providers.

"Unlike other cloud vendors, we're also unique in that we enable cloud solutions to be deployed not just in our hyperscale datacenters, but also in customer and service provider datacenters, as well," Guthrie said in the keynote. "Our Azure Stack offering enables you to stand up a consistent cloud platform experience with the same management APIs, the same portal, and the same set of developer services available in our full public cloud Azure."

First announced at last year's Ignite conference, Azure Stack has been available in preview form since January, and was expected to be production-ready by year's end, following the releases of Microsoft's "2016"-branded server products. However, Microsoft has now postponed its release until "mid-CY2017," according to this Tuesday blog post by Mike Neil, corporate vice president of Enterprise Cloud at Microsoft.

Microsoft is delaying the launch to develop "integrated systems" of hardware and support partners that will be certified to deploy Azure Stack for customers, according to Neil. This is a change from Microsoft's earlier plan, which was to allow customers to choose their own hardware to run Azure Stack.

Neil said the move is in response to feedback from customers who have said they don't want to deal with the complexities and downtime of doing the deployments themselves. To that end, Microsoft is making Azure Stack available only through pre-validated hardware partners, instead of releasing it as a solution that customers can deploy, manage and customize.

Microsoft has recruited Dell, HP and Lenovo as its first Azure Stack systems vendors, though Neil said the company plans to eventually expand that roster, as well as explore other "implementation approaches."

"We will prioritize delivering Azure Stack via turnkey integrated systems in the initial general availability release, combining software, hardware, support and services in one solution. We've been working with systems vendors on integrated systems for a while now and see this as the best approach to bring Azure innovation to customer datacenters reliably and predictably," said Mark Jewett, Microsoft product marketing director, in a separate post.

Commenters are largely criticizing this change to the Azure Stack delivery model. In response to Jewett's post, one commenter said the move "would force us to essentially buy a private cloud in a box from a vendor that we may or may not already have an existing relationship with." They added, "How much extra are we going to need to spend on vanilla servers, support, licensing, etc., from one of these vendors who will jack up prices to do something that we are capable of doing ourselves?"

Another commenter replying to Neil's post asked, "What about startups planning a service around building private cloud services as a value-add? You basically just gave that market to HP/Dell as they can bundle the offering in. Major bummer."

The second technical preview of Azure Stack will arrive later this year.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for RCPmag.com and senior editor of AWSInsider.net.