The wait is nearly over. The Azure Stack software and hardware bundles that enable customers to essentially run a little piece of the Azure cloud within their own data centers, is now available to order, announced Microsoft today during its Inspire conference currently taking place in Washington, D.C.
Scheduled to ship in September, Azure Stack will be available as part of integrated system packages from server makers, including Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Lenovo. Cisco and Huawei will join these IT systems providers later. Earlier this year, Cisco announced it would offer Azure Stack on its UCS (Unified Computing System) converged infrastructure platform with a target date sometime in the third quarter of this year.
First announced during the inaugural Ignite conference in the spring of 2015, Azure Stack allows businesses to run their cloud workloads locally using the same management experience, tooling and application development workflows as Microsoft's public cloud offerings. Microsoft is banking on that consistency, as well as the ability to scale or transfer workloads to the Azure cloud when conditions merit, to get enterprise customers onboard with its hybrid cloud computing vision.
"Consistency enables you to confidently invest in people and processes knowing that those are fully transferable," wrote Mike Neil, corporate vice president of Azure Infrastructure and Management at Microsoft, in a July 10 announcement. "The ability to run consistent Azure services on-premises gets you full flexibility to decide where applications and workloads should reside. An integrated systems-based delivery model ensures that you can focus on what matters to your business (i.e., your applications), while also enabling us to deliver Azure innovation to you faster."
Apart from leading IT hardware makers, Microsoft has also gathered support from several independent software vendors (ISVs). Notable ISVs working on systems that support Azure Stack include Docker, Pivotal Cloud Foundry and Bitnami, Neil revealed.
In a nod to Microsoft's very public embrace of the open-source software community lately, SUSE Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux are also exploring Azure Stack compatibility. Of course, the Azure ecosystem is no stranger to Red Hat and SUSE; both Linux operating systems, among several others, are available as Azure virtual machines.
Microsoft is also making Azure Stack available in software-only form, allowing customers to test the stack. Available now as a free download, the Azure Stack Development Kit is single server deployment for proof of concept purposes. Applications that target the software will also work on multi-server Azure Stack implementations, assured Neil.
Finally, Azure Stack will also be available as a fully managed service, courtesy of several members of Microsoft's Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. Participating partners include Avanade, Daisy, Evry, Tieto, and Rackspace.
"We've been working closely with Microsoft since the first Technical Preview of Azure Stack to ensure Rackspace is the go-to provider for support for customers at any stage in their adoption of the platform, regardless of hybrid cloud skills or expertise – from testing with a single-node proof of concept, to deploying a production-ready Azure Stack cloud," commented Ramakant Pandrangi, vice president and general manager of Microsoft Clouds at Rackspace, in a statement.