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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.

Some services are unlikely to make sense without the global scale of Azure, like the content delivery network that’s part of the Azure Media Services. Others might work best as hybrid services that rely on Azure. The Key Vault service will be in Azure Stack, but it will be a software-based solution rather than using the Hardware Security Modules that the Azure service relies on (complete with explosives to avoid tampering).

It’s not a question of Azure Stack being second class, just that it has the services that make sense in the private cloud and the hosted cloud rather than in a hyperscale, global, public cloud, and it’s important to be aware of what you’re getting.

“We have to be very clear with customers so they understand the scale limitations of running Azure in their data center,” explains Mike Neil. “We want the functionality – from the top level APIs to the experience of the portal – to mimic Azure as closely as possible but that’s the challenge we have, when the minimum stamp size for Azure is about a thousand machines. How do we take that technology and scale it down to something that's more cost-effective at an entry price point for customers and make that a usable system?”

He’s confident Azure Stack will be useful, even though it’s not Azure scale. “Even in a four node configuration you can run a significantly powerful system; for a customer using this technology, they're going to be able to have a pretty good experience. And through management tools we will allow them to do capacity planning so they can understand when they’re going to run out of capacity and scale up.” The idea of bursting out to the cloud isn’t new, but it’s going to be a lot easier from Azure Stack, because the environment you have with Azure Stack will be set up in the same way, with applications already configured for the cloud platform.

Hybrid cloud demand

Critically, Microsoft is creating Azure Stack because it’s what enterprise customers and hosting providers have been asking for. As Snover puts it, “this is Satya Nadella and his fixation with listening to the customers, saying ‘get out of Redmond, go listen to the customers, find out what they want and give them what they want.’ We’re serious about doing that.”

What those customers want is a way of being able to build technology quickly enough to respond to market opportunities. “The ability to get insights is going to be disrupting every business,” claims Russinovich. “Businesses that can't respond are going to be left behind. We’ve got this tension happening in the IT world; businesses are demanding these capabilities and they’re going to the cloud to get them.” If the cloud is a model rather than a location, as Microsoft believes it is, then Azure Stack will give those businesses a choice.


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