Your Azure Stack HCI Questions Answered

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Your Azure Stack HCI Questions Answered

Table of contents

  1. What backup vendors are supported by Azure Stack HCI?
  2. Our infrastructure is heavily reliant on VMware – what considerations do we need to have in mind on how we go about implementing/adopting Azure Stack HCI in our environment?
  3. How can I go about learning Azure Stack HCI without spending a bunch of money?
  4. Can you deploy any Azure solutions into your HCI stack (e.g. Log Analytics), or only VMs and Kubernetes?
  5. Can I manage Azure Stack HCI from SCVMM?
  6. Is it possible to migrate existing workloads to Azure Stack HCI?
  7. Can Azure Stack HCI run as a standalone setup instead of having to connect to Azure?
  8. Since we are a SMB customer it seems that Azure Stack HCI would be a more cost-effective solution for us, vs using full-blown Azure. Am I understanding this correctly?
  9. Are there additional costs over and above the monthly service fee of $10/core/month?
  10. Do you have any documentation for Windows 2022 server with the same setup, like stretched cluster and S2D for example?
  11. Can Azure Stack do multi-tenant deployments?
  12. Can we deploy Azure Stack HCI in a nested environment for a home lab?
  13. What is the minimum number of nodes needed to deploy Azure Stack HCI?
  14. Do the cluster nodes in Azure Stack HCI have to be the same hardware spec, CPU, HDD, RAM, etc?
  15. Does Azure Stack HCI have something like Full Mirroring for the VM layer? Something like full HA whereas if one of the nodes fails the activity of the VMs is not affected? Similar to Fault Tolerance in VMware?
  16. How do you deploy VMs/workloads to Azure Stack HCI?
  17. Is Hyper-V Replica Supported with Azure Stack HCI?
  18. Can I install Azure Stack HCI on a Single Node?
  19. What spec VMs are needed for a nested VM cluster running Azure Stack HCI?
  20. Are 2-Node Azure Stack HCI Stretch Clusters supported?
  21. With the integration of Azure Stack HCI with Azure, apart from the disconnected scenarios, do we really need an Azure Stack hub?
  22. What does the GPU support look like for Azure Stack HCI?
  23. Can you mix Azure Stack HCI Nodes of different versions?
  24. Is it possible to expand a cluster from 2 nodes to 3 nodes automatically without rebuilding the storage volumes? Or do we need to first create a 3-way mirror volume, copy VMs, and then remove the 2-way mirror volume?
  25. One of the use cases of Azure Stack HCI is VDI, so what is the added value of Azure VDI on Azure Stack HCI?
  26. Will Azure Blog Storage be coming to Azure Stack HCI?
  27. What do you recommend for monitoring HCI Stack on-prem servers and for monitoring Hyper-V performance?
  28. Does Azure Stack HCI run on uncertified hardware for lab use?
  29. The 60-day trial, is that per Azure tenancy, or is that per installation? I.e. Do we need to sign up a Lab Azure account to repeat the trial?

Hybrid cloud is taking the IT world by storm. Major vendors like Microsoft have been making significant strides towards Hybrid cloud technologies over the last several years, and many customers find themselves in the planning phases of implementing this new technology. While many organizations are unable to make the leap to 100% cloud native architecture, it’s clear that many organizations see value in hybrid cloud deployments. In fact, the majority of respondents from our recent hybrid cloud survey stated that they see hybrid deployments as a destination, not a temporary state.

Many IT Pros See Hybrid as a Destination instead of a Temporary State

Many IT Pros See Hybrid as a Destination instead of a Temporary State

Revisit the Webinar

In spirit of this shift in the industry, we hosted a webinar (now available on demand!) focused specifically on Azure Stack HCI, which is Microsoft’s key entry into the hybrid cloud space. In this webinar, Carsten Rachfahl and I (Andy Syrewicze) discussed a number of key points such as:

  • What is Azure Stack HCI?
  • How to Install Azure Stack HCI
  • Storage and Networking Consideration for Azure Stack HCI
  • Licensing Azure Stack HCI
  • And more!

As seems to be the norm with the webinars we run, we didn’t have a chance to get to all the questions that were asked during the session. So with that in mind, we’ve provided a full list of the questions and their associated answers below!

Carsten and I also recorded and extended webinar Q & A for the The Sysadmin DOJO Podcast! You can listen or watch for more discussion on the questions.

Finally, if you have any follow-up questions or asked a question during the webinar that you do NOT see below, please use the comments form at the bottom of this post to ask your question, and we’ll be sure to get you an answer!

Enjoy!

The Questions

Q: What backup vendors are supported by Azure Stack HCI?
A: While we can’t speak for other backup vendors, Azure Stack HCI is a fully supported backup source when using Altaro VM Backup!

Q: Our infrastructure is heavily reliant on VMware. What considerations do we need to have in mind on how we go about implementing/adopting Azure Stack HCI in our environment?
A: Best recommendation I can give here is to make sure your team is up to speed on Hyper-V and Storage Spaces Direct. Once you’ve got that knowledge under your belt, the VMware knowledge and virtualization concept info you already know about will “migrate” more easily into an Azure Stack HCI implementation.

Q: How can I go about learning Azure Stack HCI without spending a bunch of money?
A: You can run Azure Stack HCI for free for up to 60-days. Additionally, you can sign up for a free Azure trial subscription if you haven’t done so already. This would help you address some of the monthly cost. Finally, if you join the Azure Stack HCI Preview Channel you can run Azure Stack HCI for free. That said, as that particular version is in “preview” be sure to not run it in production scenarios.

Q: Can you deploy any Azure solutions into your HCI stack (e.g. Log Analytics), or only VMs and Kubernetes?
A: A lot of container-based azure services will be available on Azure Stack HCI. At the moment there are Data Services and Cognitive Services with more to come!

Q: Can I Manage Azure Stack HCI from SCVMM?
A: Yes! See this Microsoft Docs entry for more information!

Q: Is it possible to migrate existing workloads to Azure Stack HCI
A: Sadly there isn’t a native live migration option for this. Currently, your options are to use the documented Robocopy process that Microsoft has laid out here, or use a third-party tool (such as Altaro VM Backup!)

Q: Can Azure Stack HCI run as a standalone setup instead of having to connect to Azure?
A: The solution needs to be able to connect to Azure at least every 30 days to process billing and licensing, but otherwise can function quite independently.

Q: *I am not sure how to ask this, Since we are a SMB customer it seems that Azure Stack HCI would be a more cost-effective solution for us, vs using full-blown Azure. Am I understanding this correctly?
A: This really comes down to a costing exercise. You’d need to determine the cost of the services you would need to run in Azure vs. the monthly $10/core/month licensing for your Azure Stack HCI hosts along with whatever Windows Server guest licensing you would need. If you’re small enough to where you can license your guest VMs using standard edition licensing, the costing could be quite competitive.

Q: Are there additional costs over and above the monthly service fee of $10/core/month?
A: This depends on the services you intend on running. Any of the extra services in Azure would require additional cost. If you intend on running Windows Server VMs on your Azure Stack HCI Cluster then you must also handle the Windows OS Guest licensing.

Q: *Do you have any documentation for Windows 2022 server with the same setup, like stretched cluster and S2D for example?
A: Unfortunately, stretched clustering with S2D is currently not supported in Windows Server 2022 S2D like it is on Azure Stack HCI.

Q: Can Azure Stack do multi-tenant deployments?
A: While the technology to do so is certainly “in the box”, there are licensing restrictions with service provider SPLA licensing that would make this nearly impossible. Our suggestion is to reach out to your Microsoft licensing rep for more information on this scenario.

Q: Can we deploy Azure Stack HCI in a nested environment for a home lab?
A: Yes! This works well!

Q: What is the minimum number of nodes needed to deploy Azure Stack HCI?
A: 2-nodes is the minimum.

Q: Do the cluster nodes in Azure Stack HCI have to be the same hardware spec, CPU, HDD, RAM, etc?
A: Best practices would say yes, but I know it doesn’t always work that way in the real world. It should work with different kinds of hardware. That said, if you have very different CPUs you’ll want to pay special attention to the CPU compatibility settings in your VM Settings.

Q: Hi, does Azure Stack HCI have something like Full Mirroring for the VM layer? Something like full HA whereas if one of the node fails the activity of the VMs is not affected? Similar to Fault Tolerance in VMware?
A: Not at this time. Currently, Azure Stack HCI provides HA, in that if a node fails, the other nodes in the cluster will recover and restart the affected VMs.

Q: How do you deploy vms/workloads to Azure Stack HCI?
A: you can interact with and deploy VMs in the same way you would with Hyper-V. You can use any of the Hyper-V Management tools, or you can use Windows Admin Center as well!

Q: Is Hyper-V Replica Supported with Azure Stack HCI?
A: No

Q: Can I Install Azure Stack HCI on a Single Node?
A: This isn’t currently supported today, but this would certainly be a nice deployment option!

Q: What spec VMs are needed for a nested VM cluster running Azure Stack HCI?
A: I would recommend following the MSLab GitHub project. It has a lot of useful information and scripts for deploying Azure Stack HCI in lab environments and there is some sizing info present there as well!

Q: Are 2-Node Azure Stack HCI Stretch Clusters Supported?
A: Not at this time, No.

Q: With the integration Of Azure Stack HCI with Azure, apart from the disconnected scenarios, do we really need azure stack hub?
A: There are really different use-cases between Azure Stack HCI, and Azure Stack Hub. This link has some details concerning the differences between the two.

Q: What does the GPU support look like for Azure Stack HCI?
A: More information can be found on GPU support here

Q: Can you mix Azure Stack HCI Nodes of Different Versions?
A: While it’s certainly possible, it’s not recommended outside of patching windows. This is primarily due to the fact that Microsoft will not support versions of Azure Stack HCI that are more than 6 months old.

Q: Is it possible to expand a cluster from 2 nodes to 3 nodes automatically without rebuilding the storage volumes? Or do we need to first create a 3 way mirror volume, copy VMs, and then remove the 2 way mirror volume?
A: If you want to switch from 2-way mirror to 3-way mirror you have to create new volumes and move the workload live with storage migration. If you stay at 2-way mirror you don’t have to do anything.

Q: One of the use cases of Azure Stack HCI is VDI, So what is the added value of Azure VDI on Azure Stack HCI?
A: One of the benefits is being able to select your hardware of choice. Additionally, there are some benefits in the realm of licensing when it comes to VDI on Azure Stack HCI. Check with your Microsoft licensing rep for more information on this scenario.

Q: Will Azure Blog Storage be Coming to Azure Stack HCI?
A: Currently it is not available, nor have we heard any news that it’s in the pipeline.

Q: What do you recommend for monitoring HCI Stack on-prem servers and for monitoring Hyper-V performance?
A: You can certainly use the usual Windows built in tools like Perfmon, taskmgr…etc. For larger monitoring scenarios, I’d recommend looking at monitoring using the native Azure integrations.

Q: Does Azure Stack HCI run on uncertified hardware for lab use?
A: Yes it can. Certainly this isn’t preferred for production cases, but should be fine in a lab.

Q: The 60 day trial, is that per Azure tenancy, or is that per installation? ie: Do we need to sign up a Lab Azure account to repeat the trial?
A: Microsoft states, that you only can register a hardware cluster once. So with that in mind, we can’t say one way or the other as we haven’t tested this specifically.

Wrap-Up

That wraps up our questions from the webinar. Again, if you asked a question that you don’t see above, or you think of a follow-up question, by all means let us know below! We’ll be sure to get you an answer one way or the other!

As always, thanks for reading!

Altaro Hyper-V Backup
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