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Azure Stack - Cloud Services

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Azure Stack, Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service by Microsoft (formerly known with a name – Windows Azure) for building, deploying, testing applications / services via a global network of data centers which are managed by Microsoft itself.  

There are Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) service offerings provided by Microsoft in this regard which support many programming languages that are available in the market as on today.

What is Azure Stack?

Microsoft’s Azure Stack is an on-premises variant of its public cloud offerings that is deemed important for pros in the market for one simple reason – that it gives its customers ways and means to use the most familiar cloud platform without pushing their specific sensitive data into the multi-tenant environments.

Azure Stack is a software that has been announced by Microsoft which is certified to run on a premium list of partners’ hardware and is intended to be a look alike of the Microsoft’s Azure public cloud.

One other interesting feature that we might have to take a note of, is that no other competitor to Microsoft Azure has anything like Azure Stack – considering the competitors like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud.

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Microsoft can be coined as the first of the three biggies in the Iaas (Infrastructure as a Service) vendors that provide a hybrid cloud platform constituting the on-premises hardware and the bundled software with similar software management tools as observed in the Azure Public Cloud offerings.

Azure Stack was announced in the later months of 2015 and is made available to the customers to consume their services by the fall of 2015. Microsoft Azure Stack GA is right around the corner for its release that somewhere in the mid-2017.

Microsoft has started providing various combinations of offerings for Azure Stack which are detailed as below:

  • A software-only Azure Stack Development Kit (ASDK) is made available for proof of concepts purposes

  • A combined hardware-software offering named Azure Stack Integrated System with the hardware being provided by any of the trio (DELL EMC, HPE or Lenovo) and a necessary license for the Azure Stack software to run on top of the hardware that is purchased.

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Microsoft has its offering in two major ways to purchase the Azure Stack licensed software, one by “pay as you go” model and the other “pay as you use” model where the usage of the infrastructure and software will be charged.

What are Azure Stack’s Services?

Azure Stack is comprised of two components which constitute the whole product in itself

  • The infrastructure that is sold to the customers from any one of the Microsoft’s certified partners like Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo

  • The software that is licensed from Microsoft itself.

The software is an amalgam of all the needed Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) functions that can constitute the whole setup of a cloud platform which includes the Virtual Machines, Storage space, Virtual Networking / Monitoring.

Azure Stack includes some capabilities of a Platform as a Service (PaaS) application development that covers the inclusion of Azure Container Services, Microsoft Azure Functions Serverless, MySQL and Microsoft Azure SQL Server support.

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The authentication for the whole setup comes in the form of Azure Active Directory (AD).

Customers do possess access to a huge variants of third party applications from Azure Marketplace that includes OS images from organizations like Red Hat, SuSE and also templates that can be installed to run applications like Cloud Foundry, Kubernetes, and Mesosphere etc.

On the hardware standpoint, Azure Stack runs on a hyper-converged infrastructure stack that is certified by either Microsoft or Vendor partners who are certified by Microsoft itself.

Finally, we have a compilation of all the services that you can opt from Microsoft Azure in various different combinations. Customers have the flexibility to choose amongst the available options that best suits their requirements.

Let us now take a look at the combinations available for choosing in Microsoft Azure Stack GA release (these are already discussed in the sections above, but have added them in a tabular form for quicker reference):

Service provided in GA Feature
Azure Services IaaS features like Compute, Storage, Network
  PaaS features like Storage (blobs, tables, queues)
  Key Vault
  App Service: Web Apps, Mobile Apps, API Apps
  Functions like Serverless Computing
  MySQL Resource provider
  SQL Server Resource Provider
Azure Market Place : IaaS VM Scale sets with automated scaling
  Mesos template
  Microsoft SQL
  Cloud Foundry template
  Blockchain template
Azure Market Place :  Images and Extensions Linux: RedHat, SuSe
  Windows Server
  Azure Docker Extension
  DSC Extension
  Chef
Tools for the necessary Support Visual Studio
  Powershell
  Azure CLI
Scalability OMS (Operational Management Suite) guest extension is provided
  4-12 nodes
  Single Region
  Single Scale Unit

Conclusion:

In this article, we have introduced you about the Microsoft’s offering named Azure and also have tried to dig in to many details of Azure Stack. We have tried to understand the overall features that are made available with Microsoft Azure Stack. After going through the necessary details, as per the author of this article suggests is to get yourself acquainted with the 200$ worth free account with Azure Stack and then take a decision to get going with your business hosted on Azure Stack.

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