Archivi categoria: Cloud & Datacenter Management (2024-2025)

Strategic Integration Between Azure Stack HCI and Azure Virtual Desktop

In the current context of continuous technological evolution, the importance of resilient, scalable, and secure infrastructure solutions has never been more apparent. Microsoft’s Azure Stack HCI emerges as a key player in this landscape, offering a powerful hybrid platform that bridges on-premises environments and the cloud. With the integration of Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), this solution becomes even more strategic for companies looking to navigate the complexities in the field of desktop and application virtualization, extending the capabilities of Microsoft’s managed cloud service to the hybrid cloud environment. Through this approach, organizations can now deploy virtual desktops and applications more efficiently, while ensuring low-latency connectivity and access to Azure’s managed services for leading-edge management, security, and scalability. This article will explore in detail the features, benefits, and innovations of Azure Virtual Desktop on Azure Stack HCI, providing a comprehensive overview of how these technologies can transform company IT infrastructures to better face the challenges of the modern work world.

Overview of Azure Stack HCI and Azure Virtual Desktop

What is Azure Stack HCI?

Azure Stack HCI is an innovative solution from Microsoft that enables the implementation of a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) for running workloads on-premises while maintaining a strategic connection to Azure services. This system eliminates the need for various traditional hardware components, opting instead for a software solution that integrates computing, storage, and networking into a single platform. This marks an evolution from traditional “three-tier” infrastructures, characterized by network switches, appliances, physical systems with hypervisors, storage fabric, and SAN, to a more simplified and efficient solution. Azure Stack HCI offers an infrastructure powered by a hyper-converged model, which supports both Windows and Linux virtual machines as well as containerized workloads, together with their storage. As a quintessential hybrid product, Azure Stack HCI facilitates the integration between on-premises systems and Azure, allowing access to cloud-based services, monitoring, and management. This gives organizations the agility and benefits typical of public cloud infrastructure, while effectively responding to use cases and regulatory requirements of specialized workloads that need to remain on-premises. Azure Stack HCI thus positions itself as a strategic choice for organizations aiming to combine cloud efficiency with the specific needs of the on-premises environment.

What is Azure Virtual Desktop?

Azure Virtual Desktop is a state-of-the-art VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) solution, cloud-based, designed to effectively meet the needs of modern work, whether remote or hybrid. Unique in its kind, it is fully optimized to leverage the multi-session capabilities of Windows 11 and Windows 10, ensuring optimal integration and efficiency. Additionally, Azure Virtual Desktop stands out for its robust security features, designed to protect corporate applications and data while ensuring compliance with current regulations. The platform is designed to significantly simplify the deployment and management of the VDI infrastructure, offering complete control over configuration and management. Thanks to its consumption-based pricing structure, it allows for reduced operational costs, leveraging investments and skills already acquired in the field of virtualization, paying only for the resources actually used.

What is Azure Virtual Desktop for Azure Stack HCI?

Azure Virtual Desktop for Azure Stack HCI represents an innovative technological solution that integrates the distinctive benefits of Azure Virtual Desktop and Azure Stack HCI. This integration offers organizations the flexibility to run virtualized desktops and applications securely not only in the cloud but also on-premises. Particularly suitable for entities with specific data residency requirements, latency sensitivity, or data proximity needs, Azure Virtual Desktop for Azure Stack HCI extends the capabilities of the Microsoft Cloud to corporate datacenters, promoting an IT environment more adaptive and responsive to business needs.

Key Features and Benefits

The main features and benefits of this solution include:

  • Performance optimization: enhances the user experience of Azure Virtual Desktop in regions with limited connectivity to the Azure public cloud, offering session hosts in physical proximity to users.
  • Compliance with data locality requirements: allows organizations to meet data residency requirements, keeping the data of applications and users on-premises. This aspect is crucial for companies operating in regulated sectors or with specific data privacy and security needs.
  • Access to legacy resources: facilitates access to legacy applications and data sources by keeping them in the same physical location as virtualized desktops and apps.
  • Full and efficient Windows experience: ensures a smooth and complete user experience thanks to compatibility with Windows 11 and Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session, while optimizing operational costs.
  • Unified management: simplifies the deployment and management of the VDI infrastructure compared to traditional on-premises solutions, using the Azure portal for centralized and integrated control.
  • Optimal network performance: ensures the best connection performance with RDP Shortpath, reducing latency and improving user access to virtualized resources.
  • Simple updates: allows for quick and simple deployment of the latest fully updated images through the use of Azure Marketplace images, thus ensuring that the virtual environment remains secure and up-to-date.

Azure Virtual Desktop for Azure Stack HCI is configured as a highly scalable and secure solution that enables companies to effectively address challenges related to data management, latency, and compliance, promoting an optimized and centrally manageable virtual work environment.

Integration Mechanisms

The main key mechanisms through which AVD integrates with Azure Stack HCI include:

  • Virtual machines as Session Hosts: the virtual machines (VMs) created on Azure Stack HCI act as session hosts for AVD. These VMs are managed just like any Azure VM but are located on-premises.
  • Azure managed components: AVD on Azure Stack HCI uses Azure managed components, such as brokerage and gateway services, while deploying session host pools directly on Azure Stack HCI clusters.
  • System requirements: to implement this configuration, you need to have Azure Stack HCI version 23H2 or higher. Additionally, you must have a Windows image for the VMs and a logical network that supports DHCP on Azure Stack HCI.

Deployment and Management

Here is how the deployment and management of AVD in this hybrid context works:

  • Location definition: deploying on Azure Stack HCI requires defining a custom location that represents the Azure Stack HCI cluster during the creation of resources on Azure. This step is crucial to ensure that resources are correctly associated with the desired physical infrastructure.
  • Configuration of Session Host pools: session host pools can be made up of VMs located in the Azure cloud or on a specific Azure Stack HCI cluster. It is important to note that VMs from both origins cannot be combined within a single pool.
  • Consistent management: the management of session hosts and user identities, which must be hybrid configurations synchronized between AD on-premises and Microsoft Entra ID, remains in line with standard Azure Virtual Desktop practices.

Licensing and Pricing

To implement Azure Virtual Desktop on Azure Stack HCI, it is essential to understand and ensure compliance with the necessary licenses and pricing models. Here are the three main components that influence the cost of Azure Virtual Desktop on Azure Stack HCI:

  1. Infrastructural costs: these costs directly relate to the Azure Stack HCI infrastructure on which Azure Virtual Desktop is run. More information on the Azure Stack HCI cost model can be found in this article.
  2. User access rights: the same licenses that grant access to Azure Virtual Desktop on Azure also apply to Azure Virtual Desktop for Azure Stack HCI. It is important to note that user access pricing for external users is not supported on Azure Virtual Desktop for Azure Stack HCI.
  3. Hybrid service rate: this is an additional rate that applies to each active virtual CPU (vCPU) on Azure Virtual Desktop session hosts operating on Azure Stack HCI. The rate for the hybrid service is $0.01 per vCore per hour of use.

Conclusions

The innovative contribution of Azure Stack HCI, further enhanced by the integration with Azure Virtual Desktop, marks a fundamental turning point for organizations aspiring to an advanced and hybrid IT infrastructure. Azure Stack HCI establishes itself as the backbone of this transformation, offering optimized management of on-premises workloads, together with the flexibility and efficiency characteristic of the cloud. The implementation of Azure Virtual Desktop on Azure Stack HCI proves ideal for organizations that wish to leverage the potential of the cloud, while maintaining the specific needs of on-premises environments. This solution sets a new standard in the sector of hybrid VDI solutions, proposing an effective balance between innovation and customization.

Impact of Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware and Microsoft’s alternative solutions

The tech industry witnessed one of the most significant mergers in recent times in November 2023, with Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware. This historic deal, now known as “VMware by Broadcom,” immediately raised questions and sparked interest among customers and industry analysts. Indeed, in an ever-evolving technological landscape, the repercussions of such a merger extend well beyond the walls of VMware and Broadcom, directly affecting existing customers and the global market for cloud services and IT infrastructure. Amidst a sea of changes, including shifts in licensing policies and potential uncertainty about the continuity of products and services offered, a clear need emerges for organizations to carefully assess their options.

It is in this context that Microsoft emerges as a key player, offering alternative solutions that promise not only to mitigate the risks associated with this major acquisition but also to provide new opportunities for growth and innovation. With a wide range of cloud services, virtualization tools, and infrastructure solutions, Microsoft stands out as a solid reference point for those seeking stability and reliability in a rapidly evolving IT landscape.

This article aims to explore in detail the impact of Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware, highlighting the main concerns of customers and outlining how Microsoft’s proposed alternative solutions can represent a strategic way out for organizations facing this significant change.

Main Customer Concerns

The following paragraphs report the main concerns raised by customers following Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware.

Transition from Perpetual Licenses to Subscriptions

A significant change introduced by Broadcom involves the transition from perpetual licenses, once a cornerstone of VMware’s offering, to a subscription-based model. This move raises concerns about long-term costs, as the recurring expenses of subscriptions can accumulate and exceed the one-time costs of perpetual licenses. Moreover, there is fear that customers may lose control over software versions and be subject to additional costs for updates.

Lack of Price Transparency

Customers express concerns about the lack of transparency in the pricing structure post-acquisition. Broadcom has announced reductions in “unit cost” but without providing clear details, raising fears of hidden costs and included services not requested. This uncertainty makes it difficult for customers to predict their future expenses.

Risk of Product Discontinuity

Broadcom’s history of optimizing product portfolios through the elimination of less profitable offerings has fueled concern over the potential discontinuity of popular VMware products. A case in point was the announcement of the end of availability of the free hypervisor vSphere (ESXi 7.x and 8.x), which has created uncertainty and pushed customers to evaluate alternative solutions.

Reduced Choice and Vendor Lock-in

The elimination of some products and increased dependence on Broadcom’s offerings can limit customers’ options, increasing the risk of lock-in with a single vendor. This scenario raises concerns about a possible increase in costs and a reduction in bargaining power.

Concerns about Reduced R&D

There is a strong concern that Broadcom’s historically cost-cutting approach could limit investments in research and development (R&D), compromising the innovation that has characterized VMware’s success. Memories of past acquisitions, where Broadcom cut R&D budgets, fuel fears about the future competitiveness and vitality of VMware products.

Impact on the VMware Ecosystem

Forrester Research Prediction

Forrester Research has predicted that about 20% of VMware’s enterprise customers may decide to abandon the VMware stack, driven by concerns related to the acquisition. This significant percentage of customers is looking for alternatives to meet their needs in areas such as virtualization, cloud environment management, remote access for end-users, and hyper-converged infrastructure solutions.

VMware Product Strategy and Focus

VMware has responded by simplifying its product portfolio, focusing the offering on three main areas: VMware Cloud Foundation, VMware vSphere Foundation, and additional services. This simplification aims to make it clearer for customers the technological path to follow, maintaining unchanged integrations with major cloud providers such as Azure, AWS, and Oracle. Moreover, for smaller implementations, VMware has kept the vSphere Standard and the vSphere Essentials Plus Kit, offering accessible options without overwhelming customers with an overly broad range of products.

Pricing and Offers

Despite the changes, VMware maintains a constant in its pricing strategy and offerings, opting for a subscription model that allows customers to align costs with the actual use of the software. This approach includes:

  • Subscription model: Allows paying for software based on actual use, aligning costs with real needs and avoiding large initial capital expenses (CAPEX). With terms of 1, 3, and 5 years, it offers the possibility to choose the duration of the subscription that best suits the organization’s needs and budget forecasts.
  • Core-based pricing: Rates are determined by the number of CPU cores used by the virtual machines, ensuring a cost allocation proportional to the resources used. A key aspect of the pricing model is the minimum threshold, which is equal to 16 cores per CPU.

Microsoft’s Alternative Solutions

Microsoft emerges as a key partner for customers looking for alternatives, offering innovative solutions for the migration and modernization of IT infrastructure. With an approach focused on innovation and flexibility, Microsoft primarily proposes the following solutions that can meet different needs and scenarios.

Azure Stack HCI: Bringing Azure into your data center with a hybrid infrastructure

Azure Stack HCI is Microsoft’s solution for creating an efficient and modern hyper-converged (HCI) infrastructure, suitable for running workloads in an on-premises environment with tight integration with Azure services. This solution is designed to facilitate the modernization of hybrid data centers, allowing users to enjoy a cohesive and familiar Azure experience even on-premises. Azure Stack HCI aims to simplify IT infrastructure management while improving efficiency and operational agility. For a detailed exploration of the Microsoft Azure Stack HCI solution, I invite you to read this article or watch this video. Additionally, for scenarios where a constant connection cannot be guaranteed (“disconnected” scenarios), it is possible to foresee the implementation of virtualization, storage, and network management solutions that leverage recent and innovative technologies included in Windows Server. For the latter, the new version 2025 will soon be launched.

Figure 1 – Azure Stack HCI overview

Azure VMware Solution (AVS): VMware in Microsoft’s data centers for enterprise realities

Azure VMware Solution leverages VMware technology on Azure to maintain symmetry with on-premises VMware environments, thereby accelerating the migration of VMware workloads to the Azure cloud with minimal adjustments. AVS facilitates the management of a hybrid cloud environment, offering private clouds in Azure, built on dedicated Azure infrastructure and bare-metal. Managed and supported directly by the Azure team and validated by VMware, this solution frees organizations from managing infrastructure and software. AVS includes essential VMware licenses such as vSphere, vSAN, NSX, and vMotion (VMware HCX), significantly simplifying migration and integration with Azure. For more details on the solution, you can consult this article on How to natively run VMware workloads in Azure.

Moreover, the Azure VMware Solution was recently made available in the Azure region of Northern Italy. This expansion allows customers in Italy to seamlessly integrate their VMware workloads with Azure services, leveraging the global scale, security, and performance of Azure while maintaining the VMware tools and skills they are accustomed to.

Figure 2 – Azure VMware Solution (AVS) overview

A particularly relevant aspect for organizations using Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 systems is the continuity of support in terms of security updates. Azure VMware Solution offers a significant advantage in this area: Extended Security Updates (ESU) for these systems are available at no additional cost when run on Azure VMware Solution. The provision of free ESU in Azure VMware Solution removes a common concern among many organizations regarding the costs and complexity associated with maintaining older systems in a secure environment. This approach allows companies to plan their migration and modernization of workloads with greater peace of mind, knowing that their Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 systems will continue to receive the necessary security updates for another 3 years during the transition to more recent technologies.

Azure VMware Solution not only facilitates the migration and integration of VMware environments with the Azure cloud but also provides essential support for managing legacy operating systems, offering a secure path to technological innovation and modernization without compromising security or operational stability.

Azure IaaS and PaaS: Migration and Modernization with Azure

For organizations aiming for a more radical modernization, Microsoft proposes migration to Azure IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service). This strategy allows migrating, restructuring, and rewriting applications leveraging modern architectural models. Azure IaaS ensures the management and execution of applications on a reliable cloud infrastructure, with a focus on security and compliance. Azure PaaS options further accelerate application development, providing a rich variety of tools. These platforms facilitate the quick creation of applications, support for development across different platforms, and the use of advanced resources in a cost-effective manner thanks to a payment model based on actual use. Modernization with Azure IaaS and PaaS offers a smooth transition to a flexible infrastructure, eliminating the need for VMware licenses.

Figure 3 – Moving to Azure IaaS and PaaS

Conclusions

Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware represents a significant turning point for the tech industry, marking the beginning of a new era of uncertainty and opportunity. While this merger raises legitimate concerns among customers regarding the continuity of products, price transparency, and the safeguarding of IT investments, it also opens the door to new horizons of growth and innovation. In this context of change, Microsoft stands out as a reference point, offering robust alternative solutions that not only directly address the concerns raised by this situation but also provide an opportunity for organizations to renew and enhance their IT infrastructures with cutting-edge technologies. The solutions proposed by Microsoft, including Azure Stack HCI, Azure VMware Solution (AVS), and migration and modernization options with Azure IaaS and PaaS, represent a strategic response to the challenges posed by the acquisition. These offerings allow organizations to achieve operational continuity, flexibility, and access to an innovative ecosystem that supports growth and innovation.