In this series about Azure Stack, I will give a general overview of Microsoft’s new private cloud solution, discuss its features, and explain how to install Azure Stack in your datacenter.

If you missed Mark Russinovich and Jeffrey Snover’s informative discussion about Azure Stack, read below to learn how “Stack” will change your on-premises datacenter and development models. This article intends to provide a fundamental understanding of how Azure Stack will transform the cloud with Azure, Azure Stack, and Hyper-V. We will also demonstrate some of the Azure Stack features and explain what it takes to get prepared for running Azure Stack.

The benefits of cloud computing

In many ways, traveling to other countries is similar to delivering custom applications. If you bring your own particular language, currency, time zone, and customs to a foreign land, things don’t always fit nicely within the new country.

Microsoft Azure Stack

Microsoft Azure Stack

In the same way, taking your application to a new environment with its own infrastructure, hardware, configurations, and systems can be a challenge because locations are different and you’re not going to have a consistent design. Microsoft believes the cloud is a model for building agility into an enterprise by utilizing apps and micro-services, standardized hardware, DevOps services, and standardized processes.

You want to evolve applications quickly, grow and shrink your hardware, and allow DevOps to react to changes, and you need to automate and scale configurations as needed. Microsoft has the ability to provide the agility and form the basis of your application model around Azure. Azure has been around for a while now and has some pretty impressive statistics:

  • 90,000 new Azure customer subscriptions per month
  • 4 million SQL databases
  • 500 million users in Azure AD
  • 5 trillion messages per month
  • 777 trillion storage transactions per day
  • Microsoft eats its own dog food with Skype, Bing, Xbox, and Office 365, which all run on Azure

The benefits of a private cloud

Not all businesses want a purely public cloud-based enterprise. Microsoft is taking the consistency and standardization of the cloud and placing it in the on-premises datacenter. Many companies are concerned about data security, control, and responsiveness of data and applications, and they find that some of the other on-premises offerings (such as OpenStack) are inadequate or overcomplicated.

Both private and public cloud owners are driven by their own needs, but the ability to run a cloud service on premises allows customers to be conservative, have options, and choose when and where their applications are developed and executed. Application development is the focus for Azure Stack: reduce the time between app development/testing on premises or in the cloud, and then move them back and forth. The consistent environment will allow the developers to take advantage of services such as database-as-a-service, and let the cloud provide the higher-level services. All of this is set up to make development, release, and optimization of your apps faster.

Technology companies and Managed Service Providers might be interested to find that Azure Stack provides a hosted-cloud solution, which is defined as a host (service provider) being able to provide the Azure Stack as a service. Client companies may have only certain trusted providers, and Azure Stack will allow those providers to host the Azure cloud services. Azure Stack will provide essentially the same four features as the Azure Public cloud but for tenants as well:

  1. Portal, PowerShell, Dev-Ops tools
  2. Azure Resource Manager
  3. Azure Platform as a Service (PAAS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS)
  4. Cloud (inspired) infrastructure

Your Stack will, of course, run a different fabric than the hundreds of servers that Microsoft uses in a typical fabric stamp. But you will use the same model for your on-premises ecosystem. IT has always been the protector of policies, data, and security. Here, IT will again ensure the company can go to the cloud with a managed and secure methodology.

More of the other features we have grown accustomed to with Azure (such as multi-tenant, resource pooling, measured I/O, and application metering) will now come on premises, providing a true-cloud setup. Disk storage, blob storage, and table storage enable developers to build applications very quickly, and we’ll use the same tools to provision services with the Stack. Templates will be used to describe application requirements so deployments can occur quickly.

Azure Stack requirements

Keep in mind that the minimum hardware requirements for Azure Stack are going to be pretty hefty. Below are just the minimum requirements. You can find the full recommended hardware specs here.

  • CPU: Dual-Socket: 12 physical cores
  • Memory: 96GB RAM
  • BIOS: Hyper-V Enabled (with SLAT support)
  • Disk (OS): 1 OS disk with minimum of 200GB available (SSD or HDD)
  • Disk (General Azure Stack POC Data): 4 disks, each with a minimum 140GB (SSD or HDD)

I’m not sure many of us will be able to run Azure Stack in a lab environment. Even so, we’ll get the prerequisites out of the way by installing Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 4 and then set up our Azure AD instance below.

In my next post, I will describe the the Azure Stack features.

Articles in seriesAzure Stack

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