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Azure Stack is nearly ready for public release, with at least one remaining question: Will Azure Stack scale to accommodate enterprises with larger-scale requirements?
Microsoft Azure Stack is designed to run workloads within an enterprise data center in the same way they would run in Azure public cloud, orchestrated through Azure Resource Manager. The technology has been in the works since 2015, with three different technical previews during the past 18 months. It will finally be released as an appliance via hardware partners Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lenovo in September, with appliances from other vendors coming later.
But this early version of Azure Stack will be as one-rack deployments -- companies cannot build a single Azure Stack environment across multiple locations because the code is not ready yet for projects that size, said Jeff DeVerter, CTO of Microsoft technologies at Rackspace.
"The first workloads will stay in the science project category, although I would like to be proven wrong," he said.
DeVerter said he does not know of any current multinode installations. He said he does expect multirack deployments to be possible in early 2018, which should pave the way for its usage in larger companies.
Appriss Retail in Louisville, Ky., provides predictive analytics to large retail companies, many of which prefer to keep sales transaction data out of the public cloud due to privacy concerns, said David West, the firm's senior vice president for hosting services.
While Appriss is largely virtualized, Azure Stack could reduce the need to buy and provision servers that retail customers don't see. That would allow West and his team to make more strategic use of their time.
"We can see the benefits of Azure Stack by being able to divorce ourselves from the hardware and focus on the applications," he said. "Plus, we could get a lot of the benefits of the public cloud and still maintain the ability to say to our customers the data is not going into the public cloud."
However, the initial 12-node limit on Azure Stack scale probably wouldn't be enough to meet Appriss' needs, because the company wouldn't want to extend to Azure public cloud.
David Westsenior vice president for hosting services, Appriss Retail
"If they want Azure Stack to be rolled out in a serious manner, they need to get rid of that 12-node limit," he said. "As soon as it stops scaling, you have effectively broken that promise of being on premises."
West will consider Azure Stack, however, because sales transaction data is the lifeblood of his retailer customers, and many are wary about using a public cloud provider, especially Amazon, which most consider a competitor.
Some large companies that have already moved some workloads to the public cloud have shown interest in small proof-of-concept projects with Azure Stack, such as cloud-native applications in a DevOps workflow. However, those large organizations also have more staff and expertise to run applications in their own data center, said Ruud Borst, an infrastructure and solutions architect at KPN, a managed hosting and cloud services provider in the Netherlands.
Microsoft has worked to support multinode and multiregion deployments, but it makes sense for them to start small, said Gordon McKenna, CTO and co-founder at Inframon, a U.K.-based cloud consultancy recently acquired by IT services provider Ensono. McKenna has tested Azure Stack with several single-node proofs of concept, and customers have already asked about the possibly of multiregion Azure Stack clouds.
Many companies that want the full capabilities of public cloud won't look to Azure Stack and will instead go straight to public cloud, he said. Nevertheless, Azure Stack will still find plenty of companies that can't or won't send data to the public cloud, due to compliance and governance restrictions. And even at 12 nodes or less, companies can start to build and test applications on Azure Stack before they move to public cloud, he said.
Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him on Twitter @RBGatesTT or email him at email@example.com.
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