Microsoft will release on Jan. 29 the first technical preview of Azure Stack, hybrid cloud computing software inspired by its own Azure cloud platform.
"Today, Microsoft is delivering on the next phase of its hybrid cloud strategy with the first Technical Preview of Microsoft Azure Stack—the only hybrid cloud platform that is consistent with a leading public cloud," said Mike Neil, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Enterprise Cloud division, in a Jan. 26 announcement. "Born from Azure, Azure Stack helps organizations deliver Azure services from their own datacenter."
Just before the holidays, Microsoft released the Azure Stack system requirements to help customers start their server hardware planning. At minimum, the software calls for a 12-core dual-socket server processor, 96GB of RAM and four drives for general storage (140GB each). "Our goal is to enable you to experience the Azure Stack Technical Preview in a single server, instantiated as a proof-of-concept (POC) environment," stated Microsoft Technical Fellow Jeffrey Snover in a company blog post.
While enterprises are flocking to the public cloud, not all organizations are keen on completely handing their data over to cloud providers, according to Neil. Some may even be legally prohibited from the practice.
He argued that "many enterprises still have business concerns around moving fully to the public cloud, such as data sovereignty or regulatory considerations. This leaves them in a complicated position, with one foot in the public cloud and one on-premises."
Microsoft's answer to tackling the complexities of hybrid cloud deployments is Azure Stack, which combines infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) services into a consistent experience that spans on-premises environments and the software giant's massive cloud. "Azure and Azure Stack have a standardized architecture, including the same portal, a unified application model, and common DevOps tools," claimed Neil.
The benefits are threefold. "Application developers can maximize their productivity using a 'write once, deploy to Azure or Azure Stack' approach," he said. "Using APIs that are identical to Microsoft Azure, they can create applications based on open source or .NET technology that can easily run on-premises or in the public cloud."
Meanwhile, IT professionals can provide Azure IaaS/PaaS services, effectively cloud-enabling their data centers, using the management and automation tools employed by Microsoft to run its own Azure cloud. "This approach to cloud enables IT professionals to have a valuable seat at the table—they are empowered to deliver services to the business quickly, while continuing to steward corporate governance needs," Neil added.
Finally, enterprises can better align their IT strategies with their business objectives and requirements. "Organizations can embrace hybrid cloud computing on their terms by helping them address business and technical considerations like regulation, data sovereignty, customization and latency," stated Neil.
In addition, Microsoft plans to release operating system images and Azure Resource Manager templates. The open-source community is also onboard, revealed Neil. One early supporter is Canonical, which is "validated Ubuntu Linux images that enable open source applications to work well in Azure Stack environments," he said.