Customers hoping to spin up a piece of Microsoft's cloud in their own data centers will have a little longer to wait, the company announced on July 12.
After releasing the Azure Stack Technical Preview software on Jan. 29, Mike Neil, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Enterprise Cloud division, said his company gathered feedback. In the months since early testers have been putting the software through its paces, Microsoft came to the conclusion that customers value a fast, uncomplicated and dependable deployment process over installing and configuring Azure Stack systems themselves.
"To best meet these requirements, we will prioritize delivering Azure Stack as turnkey integrated systems in the initial general availability (GA) release, combining software, hardware, support and services in one solution," wrote Neil, in a blog post. "As we do this, we will leverage our deep experience in both cloud and enterprise datacenter environments to optimize the customer experience."
Effectively, when Azure Stack officially launches in mid-2017, it will be offered as prevalidated software and systems bundles from select hardware partners. Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) already have servers that can handle the cloud platform's system requirements in their respective product portfolios. Next year, Lenovo will join those companies in offering Azure Stack appliances.
"Lenovo and Microsoft share a common vision related to the customer value of hybrid cloud," remarked Brian Connors, vice president of Next Generation IT and Business Development at Lenovo, in a statement. "This experience and vision, coupled with the converged co-engineering work we are doing with Microsoft, is well suited to bring an Azure Stack integrated system solution to market where we can simplify deployments for our customers."
Lenovo snapped up IBM's x86 server unit for $2.3 billion in 2014, nearly a decade after paying $12 billion for its PC division. Today, the company ranks among the world's top five server vendors, behind HPE, Dell and IBM.
Customers hoping to cobble together their own Azure Stack environments with their choice of hardware needn't give up hope, hinted Neil. In addition to growing the number of supported systems, Microsoft will investigate other "implementation approaches," he said. "Our goal is to democratize the cloud model by enabling it for the broadest set of use-cases possible."
In the meantime, Neil offered guidance for organizations that are counting down to Azure Stack's eventual release.
Businesses seeking to deploy applications on the platform can get a head start on Azure's existing services slate, said Neil. Given that both the public and private implementations of Azure share a unified application model, organizations will be able to port their applications seamlessly when Azure Stack appliances finally start shipping next year.
To familiarize themselves with Azure Stack's approach to virtualization, Neil suggested evaluating Windows Server 2016 and deploying its Hyper-V components. The server system software, set to launch early this fall, contains the same host virtualization technology. Finally, another technical preview is in the works and will be made available later this year, he said.