Azure Hybrid Cloud: overview of the new Azure Stack portfolio

In a corporate reality the adoption of solutions totally based in the cloud is not always be a viable choice or the absolute best, hybrid solutions often need to be adopted, that, however, contemplate the possibility of using also the innovations introduced by cloud. Microsoft, aware of that, has recently announced several innovations in the proposition of its solutions in Hybryd Cloud extending its portfolio to make it more complete and more adaptable to the needs of customers. This article describes how the range of Microsoft solutions in Azure Stack has been expanded and changed.

Currently, the solutions included in the Azure Stack portfolio are as follows::

  • Azure Stack Hub (previously called only "Azure Stack")
  • Azure Stack Edge (previously called "Azure Data Box Edge")
  • Azure Stack HCI

Figure 1 – Azure Stack product family

Azure Stack Hub

Azure Stack Hub and, prior to this product portfolio review, was known by the name Azure Stack continues to be the offering for enterprise customers and for the public sector customers, needing a cloud environment but disconnected from the Internet, or need to meet specific regulatory and compliance requirements. Azure Stack Hub It allows you to deliver the Azure services in the location you want. The solution continues to evolve to cover an increasingly broad range of services, including:

  • Kubernetes with Azure Kubernetes Service integration (AKS) to automate the creation, upgrading and scaling cluster environments.
  • Support for N-Series virtual machines that include GPU support.
  • Event Hubs (expected the preview this year)
  • Azure Stream Analytics (expected the preview this year)
  • Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) (expected the preview this year)
  • Azure Data Services with Azure Arc (expected the preview this year)

Azure Stack Edge

Azure Stack Edge, previously known as Azure Databox Edge, is an Azure managed appliance that can bring computational power, cloud storage and intelligence at a customer's remote edge. The customer can place the order and the provisioning of Azure Stack Edge direct from the Azure Portal, and then use the classic Azure management tools to monitor and update them. No upfront costs are required to obtain this appliance, but it will be covered monthly in the billing of Azure services. The big news about Azure Stack Edge is that new features will be supported, among the main ones we find:

  • Execution of virtual machines
  • Cluster Kubernetes
  • NVIDIA GPU support
  • High availability support

Azure Stack Edge will also be available in a "rugged" version, to withstand extreme environmental conditions, and in a battery-powered version, to be easily transported.

Azure Stack HCI

With the arrival of Windows Server 2019, Microsoft introduced the solution Azure Stack HCI, which allows the execution of virtual machines and a wide access to different services offered by Azure. This is a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), where different hardware components are removed, substitutes from the software, able to combine the layer of compute, storage and network in one solution. This is the evolution of the Windows Server Software-Defined solution (WSSD) available in the past with Windows Server 2016. Azure Stack HCI with Windows Server 2019, allows the use of Hyper-V, a solid and reliable hypervisor, along with Software Defined Storage and Software-Defined Networking solutions. To this is added Windows Admin Center, that allows you to fully manage and with a graphical interface the hyper-converged environment.

Azure Stack HCI shares the same software-defined technologies also used by Azure Stack Hub and requires the adoption of hardware tested and validated specifically for the solution. In order to obtain certification, the hardware is subjected to rigorous validation tests, that guarantee the reliability and stability of the solution. To see the different Azure Stack HCI solutions of the various hardware vendors, you can access this page. Azure Stack HCI can be used for smaller environments with a minimum of two nodes and can scale up to a maximum of 16 nodes. This makes it a suitable solution for different usage scenarios.

Conclusions

To better meet the needs of different clients in this area, Microsoft has revisited its product portfolio. The Azure Stack portfolio combined with Azure Arc, provides an environment where Azure services and management are reflected on validated and integrated infrastructure models, all in a complementary way.

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