Microsoft Announces Azure Stack for Private Clouds

Microsoft this week unveiled Azure Stack, a combined infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solution that gives companies the ability to bring Microsoft Azure services into their own data centers.

In a post on the Microsoft Server & Cloud Blog, the company explained:

Built on the same core technology as Azure, Azure Stack packages Microsoft’s investments in automated and software-defined infrastructure from our public cloud datacenters and delivers them to you for a more flexible and secure data center environment. For example, Azure Stack includes a scalable and flexible software-defined Network Controller and Storage Spaces Direct with automated sync and failover. Shielded VMs and Guarded Hosts bring “zero-trust” software-defined security to your private cloud so you can securely segment organizations and workloads and centrally control and monitor access and administration rights. Furthermore, Azure Stack will simplify the complex process of deploying private/hosted clouds based on our experience building the Microsoft Cloud Platform System, a converged infrastructure solution.

Azure Stack, which will be available for preview this summer, is aimed at enterprises that require a scalable, flexible and secure cloud infrastructure solution. While it will naturally appeal to existing Azure users already familiar with the Azure's experience, Azure Stack's support for standard hardware and non-Microsoft technologies, including Linux, make it a contender for any organization looking to build a hybrid or private cloud.

Private and Hybrid Clouds Growing in Popularity

While the incredible success of Amazon Web Services demonstrates the level to which companies have embraced the public cloud, there's still a big market for private and hybrid clouds, and that market is only getting bigger.

Many enterprises, for security and other reasons, need their own clouds. And many startups and innovative tech companies have decided that public clouds aren't the best or only fit for their businesses either. Etsy, for example, runs its own hardware in its own data centers. According to a TechCrunch piece on the company's tech philosophy, it does this because "Etsy personnel want to get under the hood and understand every aspect of every piece of technology the company controls." That's all but impossible to do in a public cloud.

Of course, Microsoft's Azure Stack isn't the only DIY cloud option. OpenStack, which was launched in 2010, is the most visible open source IaaS platform and is used by hundreds of prominent companies. But Microsoft appears to be going further than OpenStack in a few key areas. Ars Technica's Sean Gallagher explained:

Azure Stack takes a page from the Open Stack cloud management platform in that it provides a way to manage the provisioning and deployment of virtual servers and platform services within a data center's physical infrastructure. But Azure Stack is also optimized for the deployment of enterprise applications such as SQL Server, Exchange, and SharePoint and will allow companies to provide self-service application provisioning in the same way that Microsoft currently does within the Azure public cloud while maintaining control over what can be deployed and managing Integration with internal billing or charge-back systems.

Gallagher also notes that using Azure Resource Manager, companies can deploy applications internally for testing in their own private clouds and then easily deploy them to the public cloud for production. Using Microsoft Operations Management Suite (OMS), companies can manage assets associated with other clouds and virtualization solutions, including AWS, OpenStack and VMware. Currently, OMS supports functions such as log analytics, security and automation. In the future, it will also support functions like patching and Container management.

Clearly, Azure Stack's IaaS and PaaS capabilities will appeal to enterprises already invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, but with private and hybrid clouds on the rise, Azure Stack could help Microsoft reach a new generation of customers.

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