Category Archives: Azure Arc

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.

Azure Arc: a new approach to hybrid environments

The use of hybrid architectures in enterprise reality is more and more predominant, they allow you to continue to benefit from investments made in your on-premises environment and, at the same time, use the innovation introduced by the cloud. The adoption of hybrid solutions is a winner if it takes into account a shared policy for distribution, component management and security. Without consistency in the management of different environments, the costs and complexities are likely to grow exponentially. Microsoft has decided to respond to this need with the solution Azure Arc, involving a range of technologies with the aim of developing new hybrid scenarios, where Azure management services and principles are extended to any infrastructure. This article presents the approach adopted by Azure Arc for hybrid environments.

The complexity of IT environments is constantly expanding to the point where we find reality with applications based on different technologies, active on heterogeneous infrastructures and maybe that adopt solutions in different public cloud. The need for customers is to be able to adopt a solution that centrally allows them to inventory, organize and enforce control policies on their IT resources wherever they are.

The principle behind Azure Arc is to extend Azure management and governance practices to different environments and to adopt typically cloud solutions, how DevOps techniques (infrastructure as code), even for on-premises environments.

Figure 1 – Azure Arc overview

To achieve this, Microsoft has decided to extend the model Azure Resource Manager so that we can also support hybrid environments, this makes it easier to implement the security features in Azure on all infrastructure components.

Figure 2 – Azure Management for all resources

Azure Arc consists of a set of different technologies and components that allows you to:

  • Manage applications in Kubernetes environments: it provides the ability to deploy and configure Kubernetes applications in a consistent manner across all environments, adopting modern DevOps techniques.
  • Allow Azure data services to run on any infrastructure: everything is based on the adoption of kubernetes and allows achieving more easily meet compliance criteria, to improve the security of data and to have considerable flexibility in deployment time. At the time the services covered are Azure SQL Database and Azure Database for PostgreSQL.
  • Organize, manage and govern all server systems: Azure Arc extends Azure governance and management capabilities to physical machines and virtual systems in different environments. This solution is specifically called Azure Arc for servers.

Figure 3 – Azure Arc Technologies

Azure Arc involves the use of specific Resource Provider for Azure Resource Manager and the installation of Azure Arc agents is required.

By logging in to the portal, you can see that Azure Arc for Servers is already currently available in public preview, while you need to register to manage Kubernetes environments and data services in preview.

Figure 4 – Azure Arc in the Azure portal

Thanks to the adoption of Azure Arc which introduces an overall view, you can reach, for hybrid architectures, the following objectives, difficult to achieve otherwise:

  • Standardization of operations
  • Organization of resources
  • Security
  • Cost Control
  • Business Continuity
  • Regulatory and corporate compliance

Figure 5 – Cloud-native governance with Azure Arc

Conclusions

Azure Arc was recently announced and although still in an embryonic phase, I think that will evolve significantly enough to revolutionize the management and development of hybrid environments. To keep up to date on how this solution will develop you can register at this page.