Azure IaaS and Azure Stack: announcements and updates (Microsoft Ignite 2019 – Special Edition)

This special edition includes the most important announcements and major updates regarding Azure infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and Azure Stack, officialized by Microsoft this week during Microsoft Ignite 2019 conference. Microsoft announced several important additions to its Azure infrastructure as a service (IaaS) portfolio and the Microsoft infrastructure services continue to evolve to optimize the experience of running business-critical workloads.

Azure

Azure Arc: Extended Azure management and security to any infrastructure

Azure Arc enables Azure services anywhere and extends Azure management to any infrastructure for unified management, governance and control across clouds, datacenters and edge. They look and feel just like Azure resources, and they provide unified auditing, compliance, and role based access control across multiple environments and at scale.
As a result, customers can modernize any infrastructure with cloud management and security protection. With cloud practices that work anywhere, Microsoft is delivering these resources, from cloud to datacenter to edge, and enabling cloud security anywhere.
With Azure Arc, customers can now take advantage of Azure’s robust cloud management experience for their own servers (Linux and Windows Server) and Kubernetes clusters by extending Azure management across environments.
Customers can seamlessly inventory, organize, and govern their own resources at scale through a consistent and unified experience through the Azure Portal.

Virtual Machines

Azure generation 2 virtual machines generally available

Generation 2 virtual machines are now generally available on Azure. Generation 2 VMs provide support for Intel Software Guard Extensions (Intel SGX), UEFI boot architecture, and the ability to provision large VMs (up to 12TB) and OS Disks sizes that exceed 2TB. 

Proximity placement groups generally available

A proximity placement group is a logical grouping capability for Azure Virtual Machines that you can use to decrease the network latency between a set of virtual machines. When you assign your virtual machines to a proximity placement group, their placement is optimized to deliver lower latency for your latency-sensitive workloads. Now this feature is generally available in most Azure regions.

Azure VMware Solutions available in West Europe

Azure VMware Solutions are available in the West Europe Azure region. Azure VMware Solutions delivers the ability to run your VMware environment natively on Azure. This gives you the option to leverage your existing VMware skills and investments while taking full advantage of the scale and automation Azure offers. Azure VMware Solutions is now supported in East US, West US, and West Europe regions.

Azure Spot VMs

Azure Spot Virtual Machines, give you access to unused Azure compute capacity at deep discounts, will be available soon (we expect to preview this by early 2020). Spot Virtual Machines will be ideal for workloads that can be interrupted, providing scalability while reducing costs. You will be able to take advantage of Spot Virtual Machine pricing for Azure Virtual Machines or Virtual Machine Scale Sets (VMSS) to deploy opportunistic workloads of all sizes.

New virtual machine scale sets capabilities in preview

New virtual machine scale sets features simplify the management of virtual machines while improving their runtime and performance capabilities.

Vulnerability assessment in Azure Security Center

Applications that are installed in virtual machines could often have vulnerabilities that could lead to a breach of the virtual machine. Microsoft announced that the Security Center Standard tier includes built-in vulnerability assessment for virtual machines for no additional fee.

Advanced data security for SQL servers on Azure Virtual Machines

Azure Security Center’s support for threat protection and vulnerability assessment for SQL DBs running on IaaS virtual machines (VMs) is in preview.

New Azure Dav4-series and Eav4-series virtual machines

New Azure Dav4-series and Eav4-series virtual machines (VMs) based on AMD EPYC™ are available. They are ideal for general purpose (Dav4-series) and memory intensive workloads (Eav4-series).

New NVv4 series Azure Virtual Machines in preview

NVv4 (currently in preview) offers, for Windows Virtual Desktops and high-performance computing (HPC) workloads, enhanced GPU resourcing flexibility, giving customers more choice by offering partitioned GPUs built using industry-standard SR-IOV technology. Customers can select the right size of GPU Virtual Machines with as little as 2GB of dedicated GPU frame buffer for an entry-level desktop in the cloud, and up to the whole GPU with 16GB of frame buffer to provide powerful engineering workstations.

Updated NDv2 Azure Virtual Machines preview

The NDv2-series Virtual Machines, currently in preview, are the latest, fastest, and most powerful addition to the GPU family, specifically designed for the cutting edge demands of distributed HPC, AI, and machine learning workloads.

HBv2 Azure Virtual Machines for HPC workloads coming soon

HBv2 VMs are designed to deliver supercomputer-class performance, message passing interface (MPI) scalability, and cost efficiency for a variety of real-world HPC workloads. HBv2 Virtual Machines support up to 80,000 cores for single MPI jobs to deliver performance that rivals some of the world’s largest and most powerful bare metal supercomputers.

Networking

Azure Bastion is generally available

Microsoft announced the general availability (GA) of Azure Bastion, a fully managed platform as a service (PaaS) service that provides more secure and seamless RDP and SSH access to virtual machines directly through the Azure portal.

Azure Firewall Manager is now in preview

Azure Firewall Manager Preview is a security management service that provides central security policy and route management for cloud-based security perimeters. It works with Azure Virtual WAN Hub, a Microsoft-managed resource that lets you easily create hub and spoke architectures. When security and routing policies are associated with such a hub, it is referred to as a Secured Virtual Hub.

Native Azure Active Directory authentication support in point-to-site VPN

Native Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) authentication support for OpenVPN protocol, and Azure VPN Client for Windows are now available. Native Azure AD authentication support was widely requested by enterprise customers because Azure AD integration enables user-based policies, conditional access, and multi-factor authentication (MFA) for P2S VPN. Native Azure AD authentication requires both Azure VPN gateway integration and a new Azure VPN Client to obtain and validate an Azure AD token.

Azure Private Link is now available in all regions

Azure Private Link, which provides private connectivity to Azure services, is now available in all regions.

Azure Peering Service in managed preview

Azure Peering Service is a partnership with service providers to provide highly reliable and optimized internet connectivity to Microsoft services. It also provides internet latency telemetry and route monitoring with alerting against hijacks, leaks, and any other BGP mal configurations.  Azure Peering Service is targeting customers with an internet-first network strategy for accessing Azure and SaaS services such as Office 365. Through partnering with internet service providers, customers are able to take advantage of optimized routing of their internet traffic to the Microsoft cloud.

Enhancements to Azure Virtual WAN

Significant enhancements include the preview of hub-to-hub and any-to-any connectivity. Virtual WAN users can connect multiple hubs for full mesh connectivity to further simplify their network architecture. Additionally, ExpressRoute and Point to Site are now Generally Available with Virtual WAN.

IPv6 for Azure Virtual Network is generally available

IPv6 support within the virtual network and to the internet enables you to expand into the growing mobile and IoT markets with Azure-based applications and to address IPv4 depletion in your own corporate networks.

Azure ExpressRoute for satellites is available

ExpressRoute, with one of the largest networking ecosystems in the public cloud, now includes satellite connectivity partners, bringing new options and coverage.

Storage

Azure Data Share is available

Azure Data Share enables organizations to easily and securely share data with other organizations to expand analytics datasets for enhanced insights.

Azure Stack

Azure Stack, the extension of Azure that brings the innovation of cloud computing to build and deploy hybrid applications anywhere, is being renamed “Azure Stack Hub“. Also, Azure Data Box Edge, the Microsoft data-transfer devices, is being renamed as “Azure Stack Edge“.

So, Azure Stack will expand to include a portfolio of products consisting of:

  • Azure Stack HCI
  • Azure Stack Hub (previously Azure Stack)
  • Azure Stack Edge (previously Azure Data Box Edge):
    • It is an Azure managed appliance that brings the compute, storage, and intelligence of Azure to the edge.
    • It is a first party Microsoft appliance, delivered to customers’ sites to run Azure services with no upfront costs (you pay monthly in your Azure bill).
    • Customers can use the Azure portal to order and provision Azure Stack Edge; Azure management tools are used for monitoring and running updates.

Azure Stack Hub

Microsoft is sharing some new updates for Azure Stack Hub roadmap, including N-Series virtual machines enabled by NVIDIA V100 GPUs. It’s also announcing the general availability of Kubernetes on Azure Stack Hub. You can now easily provision Kubernetes clusters on Azure Stack Hub using Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) engine to automate the creation, update, and scaling of Kubernetes clusters. In the first half of 2020, Event Hubs and Azure Stream Analytics will also be available for public preview.

Azure Stack Edge

Azure Stack Edge will soon support new compute and AI capabilities including virtual machines, Kubernetes clusters, NVIDIA GPU support and high-availability support. With these capabilities, Azure Stack Edge is quickly evolving to the forefront of edge computing in the market. Microsoft is also enabling private cellular networks as a service by adding the tech preview of multi-access edge compute (MEC) on Azure Stack Edge.

Azure Stack portfolio and Azure Arc

Azure Arc and Azure Stack portfolio are complementary, so you can combine the benefits of Azure Arc with Azure Stack portfolio, where Azure Arc can manage virtual machines, containers, and run Azure Data Services on Azure Stack portfolio of validated and integrated systems while leveraging the compute and cloud capabilities of Azure Stack.

Conclusions

The most important announcement from Microsoft Ignite 2019 for me is Azure Arc, the Microsoft’s new approach to hybrid. Enterprises rely on a hybrid technology approach to take advantage of their on-premises investment and, at the same time, utilize cloud innovation. As more business operations and applications expand to include edge devices and multiple clouds, hybrid capabilities must enable apps to run seamlessly across on-premises, multi-cloud, and edge devices, while providing consistent management and security across all distributed locations. Hybrid cloud capabilities in Microsoft is evolving to enable innovation anywhere, while providing a seamless development, deployment and ongoing management experience.