Microsoft Releases Final Azure Stack Technical Preview

The third and final technical preview (TP) of Azure Stack, Microsoft's solution for organizations that want to run the Azure public cloud platform in private datacenters, is now available.

Azure Stack will be offered on integrated appliances from Microsoft-approved partners. Microsoft also revealed on Wednesday and pricing for Azure Stack will be consumption-based.

The new Azure Stack TP3 comes nearly eight months after the company released the second preview and more than a year since releasing the first test release. While Microsoft has shifted course on Azure Stack a number of times, most notably last summer, the company now says it has firmed up its roadmap for the product.

Starting with TP3, Microsoft is promising more continuous refreshes up until Azure Stack's expected release this summer. Microsoft will soon add support for Azure Functions and, shortly thereafter, Blockchain, Cloud Foundry and Mesos templates. Also in the coming months, Microsoft will release an update to TP3 that will offer multi-tenant support.

"Our goal is to ensure that organizations choosing hybrid cloud environments have this same flexibility and innovation capability to match their business objectives and application designs," said Microsoft Technical Evangelist Jeffrey Snover in a blog post published revealing the latest Azure Stack news.

Snover said TP3 will let customers:

  • Deploy with ADFS for disconnected scenarios
  • Start using Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets for scale out workloads
  • Syndicate content from the Azure Marketplace to make available in Azure Stack
  • Use Azure D-Series VM sizes
  • Deploy and create templates with Temp Disks that are consistent with Azure
  • Take comfort in the enhanced security of an isolated administrator portal
  • Take advantage of improvements to IaaS and PaaS functionality
  • Use enhanced infrastructure management functionality, such as improved alerting

Apparently, Microsoft is letting testers keep their previews. Upon release, Snover said the company will rename its proof-of-concept (PoC) deployments Azure Stack Development Kit, which customers can use as a "single-server dev/test tool to prototype and validate hybrid applications." After Azure Stack is commercially available, Snover said customers should expect to see frequent release updates focused on application modernization, improved management and scale.

Snover emphasized the goal for Azure Stack to offer a consistent and hybrid application development platform that ensures apps developed can run in either the public or private versions of Azure IaaS and PaaS services. "Individuals with Azure skills can move projects, teams, DevOps processes or organizations with ease," he noted. The APIs, Portal, PowerShell cmdlets and Visual Studio experiences are all the same.

Microsoft also said it is looking to apply the same "cloud economics" to Azure Stack as offered through Azure. As such, customers will pay on a consumption basis, though somewhat less since Microsoft isn't incurring the entire infrastructure cost, according to a brief video explaining the usage-based pricing model. Hardware providers Microsoft has partnered with have indicated they will also offer subscription-based pricing plans.

The first systems will come from Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo, and later in the year from newly added partner Cisco, which will offer Azure Stack systems jointly engineered by the respective suppliers and Microsoft.

"From what we have seen if it so far is it is starting to take on the fit and finish of a completed product," said Jeff Deverter, chief technologist for the Microsoft practice at Rackspace, in an e-mail. "This announcement has really ignited the productization work here at Rackspace as we strive for being a launch-day partner."

Rand Morimoto, a Microsoft Azure MVP and president of Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Convergent Computing, a provider of IT development and deployment services, has been building PoCs with Azure Stack for a number of large enterprises since Microsoft released the first technical preview early last year, and said in an e-mail that he has been awaiting TP3.

"This is a huge solution for a lot of our banking and health care customers," Morimoto said. "We are anxiously waiting for the final release of Azure Stack and corresponding hardware solutions around it."

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.