Azure Stack: What should we expect for General Availability (GA)
Azure Stack GA is right around the corner, scheduled for mid-2017 this Azure appliance is promising to change the way organizations think about hybrid cloud deployments or, even more, how datacenters are conceived. I wanted to recap some of the most important topics and features we should expect when the Azure Stack GA version is released.
After TP3 release, Microsoft confirmed that there’s not going to be an Azure Stack TP4.
In my previous post: “Azure Stack TP3 is Here! And with Pricing” there’s an overview of the latest Technical Preview as well as some details about Azure Stack pricing.
Azure Stack Features and Capabilities in GA
There are still some components that might have some updates until the GA release, but here’s the list of features we can find available in Azure Stack:
Regarding Azure Stack Scale, even though the minimum will start from 4 servers (no matter the Integrated System selected), customers can add a server at the time if required. For a definition regarding Azure Stack scale, check my post: “Yada Yada Cloud: Azure Stack, what’s your story?”
Pulsant, cloud provider located based in the UK, will start offering starting April 2017, Azure Stack services to their customers, using TP3. Pulsant is one of the few partners available globally to reach customers with Azure Stack before the GA release.
Pulsant has been working with Dell EMC to work on this initiative where partners will give Azure Stack some real world experiences in the immediate future.
Azure Stack Features and Capabilities Post-GA
Also, Microsoft has confirmed there are going to be another features that will become available with upcoming updates to Azure Stack when GA is released. There are still some definitions to be made regarding functionalities/capabilities and dates when those will be available, here’s the list of what we know so far:
Several details available regarding Azure Stack updates and the workflow associated are available in: “Azure Stack TP3 is Here! And with Pricing”
Azure Stack Licensing and Support
As I mentioned before, Azure Stack licensing will not have upfront costs, customers will only be paying for the hardware they are acquiring from the Integrated System (Dell EMC, HPE, Lenovo and available sometime after GA, Cisco).
The Azure Stack costs will be, as we already described, based on the consumption. It will only be available with Enterprise Agreements (EA) and partners from the CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) program. Review the “Azure Stack TP3 is Here! And with Pricing” article since it provides several key definitions regarding licensing and costs.
Regarding Azure Stack support, here are the important takeaways:
- Each Integrated System will have their own support contract, different from Microsoft’s support.
- The Integrated Systems will have different levels of support, as they have right now for their hardware solutions.
- When support assistance is needed, customers can call the Integrated System or Microsoft. A consistent support experience no matter who you contact for support will be delivered.
- Coordinated escalation and resolution process.
- Hardware solutions support will be provided by the Integrated System and the cloud services support delivered by Microsoft.
Questions Unanswered (at the moment) about Azure Stack
I’ve talked with customers recently regarding Azure Stack and they’ve raised some interesting questions which don’t have an answer yet.
Here’s a summary of concepts and questions to be reviewed later on:
Is there going to be a “disconnected mode” with Azure Stack?
As we already know, Azure Stack will be integrated with Azure, and Microsoft will offer a unified billing for the services consumed in these two platforms. But what happens for scenarios where the Azure Stack instance needs to be maintained separated and disconnected from the public cloud?
It could be related about security or compliance issues, I’m pretty sure there are going to be several organizations with similar requirements.
A “fixed fee” billing will be offered?
For those organizations with a more static consumption required in the on-premises section of this hybrid cloud model with Azure Stack, can Microsoft offer a fixed fee cost assuming the hardware will stay the same and/or with a scalable fixed fee billing when more hardware is needed?
In this scenario, customers can use all the services they need within Azure Stack without additional costs besides the fixed fee agreed with Microsoft. This scenario could easily apply for the disconnected mode.
Azure Stack Connector for Windows Azure Pack (WAP)
As I reviewed in my initial post about Azure Stack, WAP (Windows Azure Pack) will be maintained as an offer available for customers, which will include an Azure Stack connector. Even more, Microsoft is encouraging customers to obtain WAP or CPS (Cloud Platform Systems) services and then extend those capabilities with Azure Stack.
Several capabilities between these platforms will be overlapping, and we can assume at some point (even though Microsoft has not confirmed this) that WAP and CPS will be replaced entirely by Azure Stack.
In the meanwhile for customers with WAP, Microsoft has released the Azure Stack connector for TP3. Using this connector, customers can enable access between Azure Stack and Windows Azure Pack on-premises platform.
WAP tenants can perform the following activities with Azure Stack:
- Browse resources
- Examine configuration values
- Stop or start a virtual machine
- Connect to a virtual machine through Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)
- Create and manage checkpoints
- Delete virtual machines and virtual networks
WAP connector for Azure Stack architecture
For more information, review the following article: “Manage Windows Azure Pack virtual machines from Azure Stack”.
When Can We Hear More Updates?
There is no formal date for GA release yet, but we can assume we could get some updates regarding dates, functionalities and other topics regarding Azure Stack in Microsoft Build 2017, May 10 – 12 in Seattle, WA.
This developer conference has been, in the last few years, focusing on cloud capabilities, and if you check Microsoft Build 2016 sessions, you will see topics like building apps for Azure, details about Azure Functions (serverless computing, capability also available in Azure Stack at GA), several tracks related to IaaS and PaaS.
It’s fair to assume we will receive some updates about Azure Stack in this event.