The Azure Stack: A Primer for Putting Cloud in Your Data Center

azure stack illustration in data centerAs businesses move to the cloud, they are realizing just how dynamic and scalable it can be. From availability and scalability to the ease of provisioning, the cloud can help organizations leverage many different resources as a service. Whether it’s a virtual machine, an app service or a function, there is a little something for everybody.

That said, the cloud may not always be a good fit for every workload. Sometimes there is a real need to keep data in your data center. Examples may be for compliance and regulatory reasons, or when real-time response to an event is required and round-trip latency is just too high. There is no right or wrong to this requirement, it’s just the nature of the beast. This introduces a dilemma of sorts for IT professionals.

While not a fit for every use case, there are some compelling reasons to look at Azure Stack for development, on-prem PaaS services, and potentially daunting tech refreshes. With its functionality and management features, Azure has become widely used for provisioning workloads with tools that have been tailored to integrate with Azure resources.

Consumption models in a cloud environment—specifically Azure—are becoming more desirable as the adoption of cloud technology progresses. Azure Stack can help alleviate this dilemma and address the concerns of keeping data within the data center while still providing the ability to provision, manage and monitor workloads in a familiar way.

What exactly is Azure Stack?

Azure Stack is an extension of Azure inside your data center. At a high level, Azure Stack is a hybrid cloud solution built on the Microsoft hyperconverged platform that runs an instance of Azure Resource Manager (ARM) connected to an Azure subscription in the cloud. (This part is optional; Azure Stack can run fully disconnected from an Azure subscription after initial configuration.) Azure Stack is a collection of hardware resources that host workloads provisioned with ARM using familiar tools such as Azure portal, PowerShell, and ARM templates. It is managed in much the same way as Azure cloud environments—the same concepts of resource groups, resources, role-based access, consumption and more all apply. This means that all the tools being used by your organization to manage Azure resources can also be used to provision and manage workloads hosted on Azure Stack. Monitoring capabilities can be quickly updated to report, alert and log the day-to-day activities of the platform and leverage the operational model currently in place within your organization.

Azure Stack: Use Cases and Workloads

Let’s begin with Platform as a Service (PaaS), because this is where Azure Stack really shines. Azure Stack can provision resources to support the development and deployment—both internally and externally—of web, API and Azure functions natively within the platform. App services on Azure Stack have the same look, feel, features and capabilities of Azure cloud. Whether you’re authoring your application in ASP.NET, Java, Node.js, PHP or Python, you can rest assured that first-class support of these coding languages is top of mind. And if hosting these workloads on Azure Stack isn’t what you had in mind, this platform is a great place to develop your applications with confidence that they will run in Azure without issue.

There may be a compelling reason to lift and shift VMs to Azure Stack, but it is not the number-one use case and should be looked at a little deeper to see if this is the best option. A great use case for a lift and shift is to leverage Azure Stack to gain additional time around the impending end of support for the Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 product lines. Microsoft has committed an additional three years of support and maintenance if these workloads are migrated to Azure, including Azure Stack. This gives you three additional years of breathing room for re-platforming, refactoring and modernizing legacy applications.

I’m sure that every business is concerned with regulatory compliance. Whether your business is healthcare, credit card, financial or some other regulated industry, there may be a need to keep your and your customers’ data within data center walls. Or maybe it’s just company policy to retain certain data on-prem. Azure Stack can be the solution for such environments and a step towards cloud hosting. As regulations are changed and amended, you will be prepared for innovation around sensitive data regulation.

One final use case that should be top of mind is edge and disconnected locations. Microsoft always uses the example of a cruise ship or completely disconnected location, and it’s a great one. Being able to host a compact platform in a location that is space-constrained and/or has lack of connectivity can be challenging. What about getting the data to a location where value can be realized? Azure Stack can provide cloud-based services to clients and businesses even when the cloud is inaccessible, so you can capture data in real time, stage it, and then move it to the appropriate analytics or processing engine at the time of your choosing.

Is Azure Stack Right for You?

You can learn how Azure Stack fits in with global Azure and Azure Stack ACI here to better understand the Azure ecosystem, and how you can use the same application model, self-service portals, and APIs with Azure Resource Manager to deliver cloud-based capabilities whether your business uses global Azure or on-premises resources. If you would really like to dive deep on Azure Stack and Hybrid Cloud, check out the great sessions from Microsoft Ignite.

Sirius is a strategic Hybrid Cloud partner for Microsoft, offering a blend of networking, security, infrastructure and cloud-first skills that make us the ideal partner to help you implement an Azure/Azure Stack Hybrid Cloud Strategy. Contact your local Sirius team and begin your journey to Hybrid Cloud with confidence!

By |2019-08-08T09:32:44-05:00May 24th, 2019|Blog|Comments Off on The Azure Stack: A Primer for Putting Cloud in Your Data Center

About the Author:

Dave Chandler is an Infrastructure Services Architect with Sirius.