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Azure Stack: Microsoft’s private-cloud platform and what IT pros need to know about it

Brandon Butler | July 17, 2017
AWS and Google Cloud have nothing like it yet.

Customers can also use a managed hosting partner or outsourcing vendor that would run the infrastructure. Rackspace is one of the first to offer this, but many other Microsoft partners are expected to offer Azure Stack in this model.

Microsoft offers two primary ways to buy the Azure Stack licensed software. One is a pay as you go model in which customers pay based on how much they use the infrastructure and software. In this model, a base virtual machine starts at $6/virtual CPU/month; Azure Blob Storage is $0.006/GB/month. Azure App Services, such as API, Web, Mobile and Azure Functions services are $42/vCPU/month ($0.056/hour).There are no upfront costs for the software and customers only pay for how much of the software is consumed. The other option is to pay a fixed annual subscription starting at $144 per core per year, ranging to $400 per core per year, which includes higher-level application services.

Customers can use their existing Microsoft licenses, including those for Windows Server, SQL Server and MSDN subscriptions to pay for Azure Stack. Various channel partner licenses agreements can also be accepted.

Updates to the Azure Stack software will not have a regular release schedule; they are pushed to customers whenever they’re ready, similar to the model in the public cloud. These updates will be automatically downloaded onto the Azure Stack software to keep it consistent with the Azure public cloud and customers have a choice of when they want to install them. Microsoft will also push a series of monthly security updates.


What competitors offer

Azure Stack is fairly unique in the market. AWS and GCP offer customers hybrid cloud computing platforms, but they’re not a full-fledged private cloud offering that’s deeply integrated with their public cloud.

AWS’s storage gateways allow customers to prepare data on their premises for upload into the AWS cloud. AWS also offers Snowballs – which are ruggedized 40 or 80 TB storage devices that run some basic compute functionality – named Greengrass- that can serve as an “edge” of AWS’s cloud. They’re meant to be loaded up with data that will eventually make its way into AWS’s public cloud. AWS also has a partnership with VMware the companies launched in 2016 that allows customers to run most VMware management software in AWS’s cloud. So, theoretically customers could connect their VMware-based on premises workloads with the same VMware software in AWS.

Google recently announced a partnership with Nutanix, the hyperconverged infrastructure vendor, to offer unified management of Nutanix and GCP resources, and backups of Nutnaix workloads to the public cloud. This partnership is meant to provide some hybrid cloud management across on-premises environments and the public cloud. Google says many of its software platforms, such as the Kubernetes container orchestration software can run on premises and in the cloud. 


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