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Azure Stack offers hybrid cloud on your terms

Mary Branscombe | Feb. 3, 2016
Forget OpenStack and Cloud Foundry: Microsoft says its Azure Stack private and hybrid cloud platform is what enterprises are asking for.

Late last month, Microsoft released the first technical preview of Azure Stack, its private and hybrid cloud platform built on the forthcoming Windows Server 2016. Unlike the existing Windows Azure pack, which gives you a small selection of Azure-compatible features, Azure Stack is (for the most part) the same code as Microsoft’s own Azure cloud, for both running a cloud and delivering cloud services.

And unlike other private and hybrid cloud offerings, what you get is ready to use, says Azure CTO Mark Russinovich, because it includes both IaaS and PaaS services. “This is a hybrid cloud platform; a platform you can deploy on premises that has the power of a hyperscale public cloud. You can run the services and use the services that are available in a public cloud in your own data center.”

That’s something only Microsoft is offering, he says. “When it comes to businesses’ needs, they have inadequate alternatives. Look at the hyperscale public cloud; none of them offer on premise. With AWS it’s ‘have a nice day on premise!’ None of them are focused on how to get to on premises.”

Other hybrid cloud systems focus only on the application model, which Russinovich views as only addressing developers. “Some people look at Cloud Foundry and they consider that their app flexibility model, but that's just the top edge of the platform.” They’re missing PaaS services, they’re missing role-based access control, network management, creating the virtual machines, managing VMs, the storage behind the VMs, and all the rest of the management that get with Azure Stack. This is not just the top edge [of a cloud model]; it gets very deep.

Hybrid cloud competitors like OpenStack that focus at the lower end of the cloud model are also problematic, believes Microsoft’s chief architect for enterprise cloud, Jeffrey Snover. He suggests that few deployments are successful. “Those that are have taken one of two paths. Either they’ve taken a large proportion of their IT staff and turned them into open source developers who are contributing at lowest level of the software, farthest removed from business differentiation. Or they write a very large check to system integrators. You get the most expensive free software in the history of mankind, because of the system integration it takes to get it going.”

The cloud model

Mike Neil, the vice president of Microsoft’s Enterprise Cloud Group, points out that the term hybrid cloud isn’t always clear. “In my mind and, I hope, the customers’ mind, hybrid means you can run in an on premises and a public environment. We want to set that expectation for customers that hybrid really does mean flexibility of workloads in either location. Cloud is not a location, it's a mind-set; we want to make location an option for customers.”


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