Azure Stack Technical Preview 3 Overview Preview Review (Part 1)

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Azure Stack Technical Preview 3 Overview Preview Review (Part 1)

Azure Stack recently released TP 3 for public browsing. See how it can fit into your hybrid cloud infrastructure in this overview of what it is and what it does.

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Perhaps you are aware of or use Microsoft Azure. Well, how about Azure Stack?

This is part one of a two-part series looking at Microsoft Azure Stack, providing an overview, preview, and review along the way. For those who are not aware, Azure Stack is a private on-premise extension of the Azure public cloud environment. Azure Stack now in technical preview three (e.g. TP3), or what you might also refer to as a beta (get the bits here).

In addition to being available via download as a preview, Microsoft is also working with vendors such as Cisco, Dell EMC, HPE, Lenovo, and others who have announced Azure Stack support. Vendors such as Dell EMC have also made proof of concept kits available that you can buy, including servers with storage and software. Microsoft has also indicated that, once launched for production versions scaling from a few to many nodes, a single node proof of concept or development system will also remain available.

software defined data infrastructure SDDI and SDDC
Software-defined data infrastructures (SDDI), AKA software-defined data centers, cloud, virtual and legacy

Besides being an on-premise, private cloud variant, Azure Stack is also hybrid-capable, being able to work with public cloud Azure. In addition to working with public cloud Azure, Azure Stack services and, in particular, workloads can also work with traditional Microsoft, Linux, and others. You can use pre-built solutions from the Azure marketplace in addition to developing your applications using Azure services and DevOps tools. Azure Stack enables hybrid deployment into public or private cloud to balance flexibility, control, and your needs.

Azure Stack Overview

Microsoft Azure Stack is an on-premise (e.g. in your own data center) private (or hybrid when connected to Azure) cloud platform. Currently, Azure Stack is in Technical Preview 3 (e.g. TP3) and available as a proof of concept (POC) download from Microsoft. You can use Azure Stack TP3 as a POC for learning, demonstrating, and trying features among other activities. Here is link to a Microsoft video providing an overview of Azure Stack, and here is a good summary of the roadmap, licensing, and related items.

In summary, Microsoft Azure Stack is:

  • An onsite, on-premise, in your data center extension of Microsoft Azure public cloud.
  • Enabling private and hybrid cloud with strong integration along with common experiences with Azure.
  • Adopt, deploy, and leverage cloud on your terms and timeline choosing what works best for you.
  • Common processes, tools, interfaces, management, and user experiences
  • Leverage speed of deployment and configuration with a purpose-built integrate solution
  • Support existing and cloud native Windows, Linux, container, and other services
  • Available as a public preview via software download, as well as vendors offering solutions

What Is Azure Stack Technical Preview 3 (TP3)

This version of Azure Stack is a single node running on a lone physical machine (PM), AKA bare metal (BM). However, it can also be installed on a virtual machine (VM) using nesting. For example, I have Azure Stack TP3 running nested on a VMware vSphere ESXi 6.5 system with a Windows Server 2016 VM as its base operating system.

Microsoft Azure Stack architecture

The TP3 POC Azure Stack is not intended for production environments, only for testing, evaluation, learning, and demonstrations as part of its terms of use. This version of Azure Stack is associated with a single node identity such as Azure Active Directory (AAD) integrated with Azure, or Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) for standalone modes. Note that since this is a single server deployment, it is not intended for performance, rather, for evaluating functionality, features, APIs, and other activities. Learn more about Azure Stack TP3 details here, including names of various virtual machines (VMs) as well as their roles.

What This All Means

A common question is whether there is demand for private and hybrid cloud. In fact, some industry experts and pundits have even said private and hybrid are dead, which is interesting. How can something be dead if it is just getting started? Likewise, it is too early to tell if Azure Stack will gain traction with various organizations, some of whom may have tried or struggled with OpenStack, among others.

Given that a large number of Microsoft Windows-based servers on VMware, OpenStack, and public cloud services as well as other platforms, along with continued growing popularity of Azure, having a solution such as Azure Stack provides an attractive option for many environments. That leads to the question of whether Azure Stack is essentially a replacement for Windows Servers or Hyper-V and if it's only for Windows guest operating systems. At this point, indeed, Windows would be an attractive and comfortable option. However, given the large number of Linux-based guests running on Hyper-V as well as Azure Public, those are also primary candidates, as are containers and other services.

Part two will cover my experiences with installing Azure Stack TP3.

Where to Learn More

The following provide more information and insight about Azure, Azure Stack, Microsoft and Windows among related topics.

azure stack, cloud, cloud deployment, hybrid cloud

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