What is Azure Stack? Here’s what you should know

Azure Stack
On July 10 at the Microsoft’s Inspire event, Azure Stack became available for order. (Azure Stack brings Azure into your data center).

This is significant for everyone watching the Azure Stack project and will, I think, be game-changing for cloud technology as a whole, regardless of the platform you favor.

In this post, we’ll cover the basics of Azure Stack by answering four questions:

  • What is Azure Stack?
  • Why is Azure Stack only available from approved vendors?
  • What are the use cases for Azure Stack?
  • How do you learn how to use Azure Stack?

Azure Stack will play a key role in broadening the reach of cloud methods into currently resistant enterprises. This means that learning Azure Stack will increase the value of your commitment to learning Azure. As more enterprises adopt Azure Stack, the use of Azure will also grow because more IT professionals and developers will become comfortable with cloud methodologies.

What is Azure Stack?

Azure Stack is Azure technology built on vetted hardware and distributed by approved vendors that bring Azure cloud technology into your data center. The vendors manage the hardware (as of this writing, Dell, Lenovo and HPE with Cisco coming soon) and Microsoft manages the software. As with Azure, you use Azure Stack to build solutions, not tinker with hardware.

Why is Azure Stack only available from approved vendors?

In January 2016, Azure announced a technical preview that allowed technologists to build an Azure Stack technical preview environment using their own hardware (the requirements were quite steep).

Many people thought Azure Stack would be deployed as a build-your-own solution. That expectation was disappointed by the announcement in July 2016 (by Mike Neil, Azure VP, Azure Infrastructure, and Management) that Azure Stack would only be available from approved hardware vendors.

Neil cited two main reasons for the decision:

  • Consume Azure innovation quickly. Customers want Azure-consistent services as they become available to stay up to date with the latest innovations in Azure. They are willing to trade off customization at the infrastructure layer to gain faster time to value.
  • Ensure quality and system reliability. Customers clearly reinforced our belief around quality and reliability. They are looking for an end-to-end solution that “just works,” not only at deployment time but also as new updates are introduced.

Read Mike Neil’s full article, Microsoft Azure Stack: Delivering cloud infrastructure as Integrated Systems.

Check out Jeffrey Snover’s presentation, Azure Stack, It’s More Radical Than You Think, for additional insight into the design philosophy of Azure Stack.

Jeffrey Snover's Azure Stack Keynote: July 2017
Jeffrey Snover’s Azure Stack Keynote: July 2017

Both Neil and Snover stress the importance of consistency between Azure and Azure Stack as the product’s key operational objective (image from Snover’s talk):

Azure and Azure Stack

(Image from Snover’s Azure Stack presentation)

What are the use cases for Azure Stack?

At the Azure Stack Use Cases site, Microsoft cites three primary scenarios:

  • For Edge and disconnected solutions

For example, remote or mobile locations with unreliable network connectivity (remote facilities, airplanes, and cruise ships are usually mentioned). In these scenarios, Azure Stack enables the use of Azure cloud methods without an Internet connection.

  • To support cloud applications that meet varied regulatory requirements

This is a significant area since there are many organizations that understand the value of cloud technology but are constrained by regulatory and other critical, non-technical concerns. Employing Azure Stack brings the benefits of the cloud while continuing to host computing assets within a private data center.

  • To bring the Cloud application model on-premise

Earlier, I mentioned the Azure Stack team’s emphasis on consistency. This isn’t merely marketing hype but the key to understanding Azure Stack’s design and the value it can bring to organizations (and also, why I think it will be a great success).
Applications developed on-premise for Azure Stack can effortlessly be deployed to Azure if and when you need to scale beyond the capabilities of your Azure Stack appliance.

Learning Azure Stack

Azure Stack Region
(Source: What is Azure Stack and what is the architecture?)

Although Azure Stack’s unique properties require learning several new concepts such as the Scale unit, (you can review them at Key features and concepts in Azure Stack and What is Azure Stack and what is the architecture?) all of the work you’ve already done, or will do, to directly learn Azure applies to Azure Stack.
So if you’re learning Azure by taking Cloud Academy’s Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions or Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions courses (among others), you’ll be learning precisely the skills you need to manage an Azure stack deployment.

Of course, Microsoft also provides excellent learning material to help you get started with Azure Stack (for example, this guide to Configuring PowerShell for Azure Stack.

With Azure Stack, Microsoft brings Azure’s power and versatility into your data center, providing organizations an opportunity to modernize on-premise assets, develop cloud skills, and simplify (or ‘hyper converge’) infrastructure.

I’m confident that this is the future of information technology, and those of us who embrace it will enjoy interesting and lucrative work for years to come.

Avatar

Written by

Dwayne Monroe

I'm a technologist. I know that sounds a bit general (like saying you love people or enjoy sunshine) but it's true. I started my career in the hectic world of client/server based infrastructures when that was shiny and new. Little did we know, as we laughed at the mainframe monks, that we were building an equally massive monolith made from servers and siloed applications. The cloud era is breathing new life into IT and I'm excited to be here, at the beginning, yet again.


Related Posts

Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— March 17, 2020

Cloud Academy’s Blog Digest: How Do AWS Certifications Increase Your Employability, How to Become a Microsoft Certified Azure Data Engineer, and more

With everything going on right now, it's likely that the only thing you've been reading lately is related to the coronavirus pandemic. It's important to stay informed during these times, but it's also good to jump into something that can take your mind off of the current situation for j...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • programming
  • Security
Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— March 13, 2020

Which Certifications Should I Get?

As we mentioned in an earlier post, the old AWS slogan, “Cloud is the new normal” is indeed a reality today. Really, cloud has been the new normal for a while now and getting credentials has become an increasingly effective way to quickly showcase your abilities to recruiters and compan...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Computing
  • Google Cloud Platform
Avatar
Guy Hummel
— March 10, 2020

How to Become a Microsoft Certified Azure Data Engineer

Data engineering is one of the most sought-after skills in the job market. According to a 2019 Dice.com report, there was an 88% year-over-year growth in job postings for data engineers, which was the highest growth rate among all technology jobs. If you want to become a data enginee...

Read more
  • Azure
  • Data Engineer
  • DP-200
  • DP-201
  • Microsoft
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— March 7, 2020

New on Cloud Academy: Intro to GitOps; AWS Courses; Java, Python, Amazon Linux 2, Ubuntu, & Docker Playgrounds; and much more

New Lab Playgrounds This month, our Content Team released six new "playground labs." Our playground labs provide a safe and secure sandbox environment for you to explore your own ideas, follow along with Cloud Academy courses, or answer your own questions — all without having to instal...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • gitops
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • lab playground
  • programming
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— March 6, 2020

New on Cloud Academy: Intro to GitOps; AWS Courses; Java, Python, Amazon Linux 2, Ubuntu, & Docker Playgrounds; and much more

New Lab Playgrounds This month, our Content Team released six new "playground labs." Our playground labs provide a safe and secure sandbox environment for you to explore your own ideas, follow along with Cloud Academy courses, or answer your own questions — all without having to instal...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • gitops
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • lab playground
  • programming
Avatar
Thomas Mitchell
— February 27, 2020

5 Steps to Vulnerability Management for Containers

Organizations have begun embracing containers due to their simplicity and to the fact that they allow for a faster development and deployment velocity. Although developers are thrilled with containers because they allow them to deliver solutions more quickly, security teams are sometime...

Read more
  • AZ-500
  • AZ-500 Exam
  • Azure
  • vulnerability management
Avatar
Chandan Patra
— February 21, 2020

Elasticsearch vs. CloudSearch: AWS Cloud Search Choices

Elasticsearch vs. CloudSearch: What's the main difference? Let's compare AWS-based cloud tools: Elasticsearch vs. CloudSearch. While both services use proven technologies, Elasticsearch is more popular, open source, and has a flexible API to use for customization; in comparison, CloudS...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • cloudsearch
  • elasticsearch
Avatar
Andrew Larkin
— February 13, 2020

Cloud Academy Content Roadmap Updates

Welcome to our Q1 2020 roadmap. This is the content we plan to build over the next three months, between February 1 - and April 30, 2020. Let's look at some of our roadmap highlights. Atlassian Bamboo for CI/CD We had a lot of requests for practical guides on how to apply DevOps tool...

Read more
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Docker
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Kubernetes
  • Machine Learning
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— February 7, 2020

New on Cloud Academy: Git Labs, CKA and CKAD Lab Challenges, AWS and Azure Learning Paths, AGILE, and Much More

We just kicked off our first Free Weekend of 2020. This means we've unlocked our Training Library for just 72 hours. Until Sunday at 11:59 pm (PST), you can get unlimited access to our industry-leading learning paths, courses, certification prep exams, and our most popular hands-on labs...

Read more
  • agile
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Linux
  • OWASP
  • programming
  • red hat
  • scrum
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— January 31, 2020

How to Unlock Complimentary Access to Cloud Academy

Are you looking to get trained or certified on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, DevOps, Cybersecurity, Information Security, Python, Java, or another technical skill? Then you'll want to mark your calendars. Starting Friday, February 7 at 12:00 a.m. PST (3:00 a.m. EST), Cloud Acade...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • cloud academy content
  • complimentary access
  • GCP
  • on the house
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— January 6, 2020

New on Cloud Academy: Red Hat, Agile, OWASP Labs, Amazon SageMaker Lab, Linux Command Line Lab, SQL, Git Labs, Scrum Master, Azure Architects Lab, and Much More

Happy New Year! We hope you're ready to kick your training in overdrive in 2020 because we have a ton of new content for you. Not only do we have a bunch of new courses, hands-on labs, and lab challenges on AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, but we also have three new courses on Red Hat, th...

Read more
  • agile
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Linux
  • OWASP
  • programming
  • red hat
  • scrum
Orion Withrow
Orion Withrow
— December 17, 2019

Azure Security: Best Practices You Need to Know

When it comes to Azure Security best practices, where do you begin? In a lot of ways, Azure is very similar to any other data center. But with that said, Azure can also be very different. Securing Azure can pose many unique challenges. The security of resources hosted in Azure is of the...

Read more
  • Azure
  • azure best practices
  • azure security center
  • Security