What Is Azure Stack And What Does It Mean For Your Business?

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Azure Stack has been delayed until mid-2017, but will you want to use it and how can you prepare for it?

Azure Stack is a Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure product that will let businesses run Azure IaaS and PaaS services directly in their own data centres.

Essentially, customers will be able to benefit from the full range of public Azure services, but maintain them on their own hardware in private or hybrid platforms.

Microsoft believes Azure Stack will put the company in good stead to compete with cloud rivals Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google, as well as OpenStack.

What is it?

“With Azure Stack, Microsoft is bringing proven innovation – including IaaS and higher level PaaS services – from hyper-scale datacenters to on-premises, enterprise-scale environments to meet customers’ business requirements,” explains Mike Neil, corporate vice president for enterprise cloud at Microsoft.

Customers will be able to run virtual machines, virtual networks and blob/table storage for applications such as SQL Server or SharePoint.

Applications can be built and deployed in exactly the same way they are in Azure, too, using Azure Resource Manager to build reusable application templates for both traditional and cloud-native apps.

When is it released?

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Originally planned for a 2016 release, Microsoft has recently delayed the launch date until mid-2017 at the earliest.

Azure Stack’s technical preview was released in January 2016.

How do you use it?

At first, Microsoft said that Azure Stack will be able to be integrated with any compatible hardware of choice, but has since changed this following the technical preview.

Now, Microsoft will be partnering with the likes of Dell, HPE and Lenovo to sell “turnkey integrated systems” that are certified for Azure Stack.

Microsoft’s reasoning is that it cuts down on the complexity of the DIY approach to rolling out Azure Stack, “combining software, hardware, support and services in one solution”.

How can customers prepare for Azure Stack?

Microsoft advised potential users of Azure Stack to start using regular Azure services, like app development, today as Azure Stack and Azure share the same unified application model.

microsoftThe next technical preview will be available “later this year” according to Microsoft, so customers can also get to grips with the platform when that is launches. However, the technical preview only offers a single node experience.

Customers should also check out Windows Server 2016 and deploy Hyper-V as that is the host virtualization technology used in Azure Stack, advised Microsoft.

What the critics say?

Azure Stack was initially applauded, with Microsoft marketing head Chris Van Wesep telling TechWeekEurope its announcement at 2015’s Ignite Conference “had people falling out of their chars”.

But following January’s technical preview, and Microsoft’s decision to only sell Stack through certified partners, things got a little nasty.

Replying to the blog post in which Microsoft announced the change, Microsoft customers hastily voice their anger towards Redmond.

“Wow, this is so wrong on many levels, why would you only allow installs on certified hardware? That makes no sense,” said one user.

“OK, now the door is totally open for OpenStack. As always, you don’t really listen your customers. You want to be more popular than AWS around startups and/or any kind of possible customer? Stop targeting only major accounts,” said another.

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