For the last several years, Microsoft has been touting Azure as the next destination in Enterprise computing. But, most companies have been reluctant to follow Microsoft blindly into the netherworld for various reasons like security, privacy, and availability. Still, Microsoft has been working hard to develop a robust solution in hopes that someday it can convince customers to push more workloads to its Cloud.
In an effort to help ease fears, the company has been on a mission to promote the Hybrid Cloud where customers get to choose where they decide to work. Microsoft has done this through the use of a software conduit called the Azure Pack that integrates with Windows Server, System Center, and SQL Server to offer a self-service portal and cloud services such as virtual machine hosting (IaaS), database as a services (DBaaS), and scalable web app hosting (PaaS). But, the Azure Pack is limited in function and really only provided sync services at its core. Azure Pack is really just an HTML 5 portal, providing a self-service window into your on-premises datacenter.
So, Microsoft has been promoting the Hybrid Cloud, but it was really in name only. That is, until last week at Microsoft Ignite.
Last week at Microsoft Ignite, the company's inaugural IT Pro event in Chicago, the company released Azure Stack. Azure Stack takes Microsoft's investments and experience with running its massive Azure services and brings it directly to customers, allowing them to run their datacenters using the same scalability, redundancy, and reliability for computer, network, and storage.
Here's some promised features that will be included when Azure Stack releases:
Scalable and flexible software-defined Network Controller and Storage Spaces Direct with automated sync and failover
Shielded VMs and Guarded Hosts for software-defined security
Secure segment organizations and workloads
Centrally controlled and monitored access and administration rights
Converged infrastructure solution
Simplified private/hosted clouds deployment
As Corporate VP Brad Anderson put it…
This is literally us giving you all of Azure for you to run in your datacenters. What this brings you is you get that great IaaS and PaaS environment in your datacenters. You have incredible capability like a unified application model that gives you a one-click deployment experience for even the most complex, multi-tier applications and then you get that cloud-inspired infrastructure. We're giving you the same software controller that we built for our network, the name is the same, network controller. We're giving you our load balancing. We're giving you all the storage innovation.
Azure Stack will be released in preview sometime later this summer and is planned for official release by the time Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 ships.
It's also important to note that messaging at Microsoft Ignite took a different turn this year. In years past at TechEd and other Microsoft designed events, the company pushed hard on attendees to welcome its Cloud without taking a minute to realize customers were getting Cloud fatigue. This year, the company spent a lot of effort trying to give on-premises customers new things to be excited about. Microsoft's Hybrid Cloud story is now starting to make more sense. Customers will now be offered a true choice, one that isn't littered with drawbacks. Using Azure Stack, customers will be able to setup a hyper-scale public cloud in their own datacenters.