Azure Stack 101: What It Is and How It Can Help Your Datacenter

Microsoft’s Azure Stack allows enterprises to run a hybrid cloud right in their own datacenters, giving them additional cloud options.

Cloud computing continues to expand in use for a wide variety of enterprises, but it all doesn’t have to happen outside your company’s datacenters.

IT leaders in some companies who worry about putting all their applications and data in the cloud outside of their own datacenters have options, including Microsoft’s Azure Stack.

A hybrid cloud infrastructure, the Azure Stack allows enterprises to deploy and access Microsoft Azure cloud services from within their own facilities. Microsoft describes it as an Infrastructure-as-a-Service “designed to enable new scenarios for your modern applications in key scenarios, like edge and disconnected environments, or meeting specific security and compliance requirements.”

Azure Stack is an integrated system of hardware and software, which can provide users with the control and flexibility they are seeking while still adopting a cloud strategy. The Azure Stack integrated systems range in size from 4 to 12 nodes, and are jointly supported by Microsoft and their hardware partners, including Dell EMC, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and Lenovo, which provide the task-designed hardware for the deployments.

The stack is an extension of Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform, which allows developers to build applications using the complete line of Azure services, DevOps processes and tools, which can then be deployed across the company to meet the needs of the business operations, technical requirements and regulatory mandates.

Microsoft has prepared a white paper describing the benefits and highlights of the Azure Stack, which delves more deeply into how enterprises can use the product to deploy hybrid cloud while maintaining more control in their own datacenters. Developers can build applications from scratch or they can obtain and expand application components from the Azure Marketplace, including open source tools and technologies, which can save time and money when applications are needed quickly.

The Azure Stack includes tools such as Azure web services, containers, and server-less and microservice architectures and a wide range of related resources to create or update needed business applications, according to Microsoft.

Enterprise IT departments can purchase the Azure Stack as an integrated system or as a complete managed service through Microsoft and its partners. The stacks can grow and be modified as you’re your business needs change.

To build their applications, developers use the existing application model, self-service portal and APIs enabled by Azure Resource Manager, adding familiarity to the process. The applications are built the same way whether they are run on Azure or Azure Stack. The services also use known DevOps tools, including Jenkins and Visual Studio Team Services, plus automation using Chef and Azure PowerShell DSC extensions.

The stack can also be used with a wide range of open source tools and technologies, including Java, Python, Node.js, PHP, Docker-integrated containers, Mesosphere DC/OS, and Cloud Foundry.

Also featured are Virtual Machine Scale Set capabilities that enable rapid deployments with auto-scaling for whatever workloads are required by an enterprise.

Enterprises that want to test out the Azure Stack in their environments can download and install the Microsoft Azure Stack Development Kit, which provides a free single-node deployment of Azure Stack. The development kit can also be used as a developer environment, where your IT staff can develop using APIs and tooling for use with Azure.

For enterprises that want to use the cloud while maintaining more control over their assets, Microsoft Azure Stack can be a great strategy to harness the cloud in 2018.

Until next time, Rob….