This is the second of a two-part series covering Azure Stack. Our first post provided an introduction to Azure Stack.
Why would your organization consider using Azure Stack? What are the key differences between Azure Stack and Microsoft Azure? In this post, we’ll begin to answer both of those questions.
Azure Stack Use Cases
Organizations that use both Azure and Azure Stack are able to leverage new hybrid use cases for internal line-of-business applications, as well as customer-facing apps. Typical use cases include edge and disconnected solutions, cloud apps that need to meet varied regulations, and the ability to leverage cloud apps on-premises.
Edge and Disconnected Solutions: Azure Stack offers organizations the ability to mitigate latency and connectivity issues by allowing them to process data on-prem, using Azure Stack, and then leveraging Azure to aggregate and analyze such data.
Cloud Applications with Varied Regulations: By offering organizations the ability to develop applications in Azure that can then be deployed on-prem in Azure Stack, Azure Stack allows such organizations to meet regulatory requirements with the need for code changes in such applications. Customers looking to deploy instances of an application in both the cloud and on-prem can do so without making changes to the application, which leads to more streamlined regulation compliance.
Cloud Application Model On-Premises: Azure Stack allows organizations to leverage Azure-based services to update existing applications, extend applications, and even build new applications all while leveraging consistent processes in Azure (cloud) and in Azure Stack (on-prem).
Azure Stack Versus Microsoft Azure
When considering Azure Stack, it’s important to understand that, while Azure Stack offers many of the same features as the cloud-based Microsoft Azure offering, there are several differences between the two offerings.
For starters, the support structure for Azure Stack varies from that of the cloud offering. Instead of contacting Microsoft for support on issues with Azure Stack, organizations, instead need to contact the service provider (partner) that hosts the solution. Organizations leveraging the Azure Stack Development Kit are relegated to finding support in the Microsoft Forums since the ASDK isn’t intended for production workloads.
As far as available services go, Azure Stack only supports a subset of Azure services. It doesn’t support ALL of the same services offered through the cloud-based Azure offering. Available services in any Azure Stack solution will vary, based on what the Azure Stack provider makes available. It’s important to discuss what features are available – prior to signing on with a partner for a deployment of Microsoft Azure Stack.
Other differences between Azure Stack and the cloud-based Azure offering include other things that would be expected, such as differences in management URLs, portal URLs, etc. Slightly less-expected differences would include differences in region availability. In Azure Stack, resources can only be deployed to the region that’s available on the Azure Stack deployment. Of course, in Azure, resources can be deployed to many different regions. Speaking of regions and resources, the cloud-based Azure offering affords the ability to span regions within a resource group. Azure Stack does not offer this capability, as there is only one region available in a deployment.
Azure Stack is undoubtedly expensive when deployed for production workloads. However, for organizations that require on-prem cloud-centric features that are otherwise only available in the cloud-based Azure offering, Microsoft Azure Stack is a solution well-worth considering. By making the Azure Stack Development Kit available, Microsoft has provided organizations that are interested in leveraging Azure Stack with a development/testing platform (albeit limited) that can be used to pilot solutions that rely on the platform.
While it’s largely seen as being “on-par” with the cloud-based Azure offering, the Azure Stack offering, is, in fact, scaled down a bit – as not all of the Azure offerings are available in Azure Stack. As such, it’s important to ensure that required features are discussed and vetted with a Microsoft partner BEFORE deploying the solution in a production environment. Deploying such an expensive hardware solution (and it IS a hardware solution) without proper vetting and planning can ultimately lead to a bad day.
So, where does Azure Stack really fit in – and make sense?
The beauty of Azure Stack is that it offers the ability to run a public Azure in the on-prem data center. It offers a selection of IaaS virtual machines can be provisioned, along with other PaaS services, such as SQL Server. It also offers other services like KeyVault that can be leveraged for storing certificates and passwords securely. Other services, such as Azure Functions and App Services are also available.
Azure Stack is a true hybrid cloud. Virtually anything that can be deployed on the public Azure should run without issue in Azure Stack. Provided an organization’s needs fit into any one of the various use cases outlined in this article, Azure Stack should be considered a viable option for such use cases.