An Introduction to the Microsoft Hybrid Cloud Concept and Azure Stack

An Introduction to the Microsoft Hybrid Cloud Concept and Azure Stack

In the last years, so-called “cloud services” have become more and more interesting and some customers are already thinking of going 100% cloud. There are a lot of competing cloud products out there, but is there a universal description of a cloud service? This is what I will address here.

Let’s start with the basics. Since time began (by that I mean “IT history”) we have all been running our own servers in our own datacenters with our own IT employees. A result of this was that you had different servers for your company, all configured individually, and your IT guys had to deal with that high number of servers. This led to a heavy and increasing load on the IT administrators, no time for new services, often they even had no time to update the existing ones to mitigate the risk to be hacked. In parallel, the development teams and management expect IT to behave in an agile fashion which was impossible for them.

Defining Cloud Services

This is not a sustainable model and is where the cloud comes in. A cloud is a highly optimized standard service (out of the box) without any small changes in the configuration. Cloud Services provide a way to just use a service (compared to power from the power plug) with a predefined and guaranteed SLA (service level agreement). If the SLA breaks, you as the customer would even get money back. The issue with these services is that these servers need to run in a highly standardized setup, in highly standardized datacenters, which are geo-redundant around the world. When it comes to Azure, these datacenters are being run in so-called “regions” with a minimum of three datacenters per region.

In addition to this, Microsoft runs their own backbone (not the internet) to provide a high quality of services. Let’s say available bandwidth meets Quality of Services (QoS).

To say it in one sentence, a cloud service is a highly standardized IT service with guaranteed SLAs running in public datacenters available from everywhere around the world at high quality. In general, from the financial point of view, you pay it per user, services or other flexible unit and you could increase or decrease it, based on your current needs.

Cloud Services – your options

If you want to invest in cloud services, you will have to choose between:

  • A private Cloud
  • A public Cloud
  • A hybrid Cloud

A private cloud contains IT services provided by your internal IT team, but in a manner, you could even get as external service. It is being provided by your datacenter and only hosts services for your company or company group. This means you will have to provide the required SLA.

A public cloud describes IT services provided by a hosting service provider with a guaranteed SLA. The services are being provided by public datacenters and they are not being spun up individually just for you.

A hybrid cloud is a mixture between a public and a private cloud, or in other words “a hybrid cloud is an internet-connected private cloud with services that are being consumed as public cloud services”. Hybrid Cloud deployments can be especially useful if there is a reason not to move a service to a public cloud such as:

  • Intellectual property needs to be saved on company-owned dedicated services
  • Highly sensitive data (e.g. health care) is not allowed to be saved on public services
  • Lack of connectivity could break the public cloud if you are in a region with poor connectivity

 

Responsibility for Cloud Services

If you decide to go with public cloud services, the question is always how many of your network services are you willing to move to the public cloud?

The general answer should be the more services you can transfer to the cloud, the better your result. However, even the best-laid plans sometimes can be at the mercy of your internet connectivity as well, which can cut you off from these services if not planned for. Additionally, industry regulations have made a 100% cloud footprint difficult for some organizations. The hybrid solution is then the most practical option for the majority of business applications.

Hybrid Cloud Scenarios

These reasons drove the decision by Microsoft to provide Azure to you for your own datacenter in a packaged solution based on the same technology as within Azure. Azure itself has the main concept of working with REST-Endpoints and ARM templates (JSON files with declarative definitions for services). Additionally, Microsoft deemed that this on-premises Azure solution should not provide only IaaS, it should be able to run PaaS, too. Just like the public Azure cloud.

This basically means, that for a service to become available in this new on-prem “Azure Stack”, it must already be generally available (GA) in public Azure.

This solution is called “Azure Stack” and comes on certified hardware only. This makes sure, that you as the customer will get performance, reliability and scalability. That ones you expect from Azure will be with Azure Stack, too.

As of today, the following Hardware OEMs part of this initiative:

  • DELL
  • HPE
  • Lenovo
  • Cisco
  • Huawei
  • Intel/Wortmann
  • Fujitsu

The following services are available with Azure Stack today, but as it is an agile product from Microsoft, we will expect MANY interesting updates in the future.

With Azure Stack, Microsoft provides a simple way to spread services between on-premise and in the public cloud. Possible scenarios could be:

  • Disconnected scenarios (Azure Stack in planes or ships)
  • Azure Stack as your development environment for Azure
  • Low latency computing
  • Hosting Platform for MSPs
  • And many more

As we all know, IT is hybrid today in most of the industries all over the world. With the combination of Azure Stack and Azure, you will have the chance to fulfill the requirements and set up a unique cloud model for all of your company services.

Summary

As you have seen, Azure Stack brings public Azure to your datacenter with the same administration and configuration models you already know from public Azure. There is no need to learn twice. Training costs go down, the standardization gives more flexibility and puts fewer loads on the local IT Admins which gives them time to work on new solutions for better quality. Also, with cloud style licensing things becomes less complex, as things are simply based on a usage model. You could even link your Azure Stack licenses directly to an Azure Subscription.

As hybrid cloud services are the future for the next 10 years or even more, Azure and Azure Stack together can make your IT world the most successful that it ever was in the last 10 years and moving forward.

If you want to learn more about Azure stack, watch our webinar Future-proofing your Datacenter with Microsoft Azure Stack

How about you? Does your organization have interest in Azure Stack? Why or why not? We here on the Altaro Blog are interested! Let us know in the comments section below!

Thanks for reading!

Webinar Follow-up Q&A: Future-Proofing your Datacenter with Microsoft Azure Stack

Webinar Follow-up Q&A: Future-Proofing your Datacenter with Microsoft Azure Stack

Hello once again everyone! Back on August 28th, Thomas Maurer and I put on a webinar centered around the topic of Microsoft Azure Stack. The webinar served as an introduction to the topic and spoke to how Azure stack will integrate into your existing datacenter.

As is our norm after putting on a big webinar, we always like to do a follow-up blog post, that includes several things:

  • A full recording of the webinar
  • A copy of the slide deck for download
  • Full list of the questions and their associated answers.

Let’s get started with the list!

Revisit the Webinar

Download a Copy of the Slide Deck

The Slide Deck can be downloaded HERE

Q&A from the Webinar

Q. If you’re new to Azure Stack, what are some good resources for learning more about it (Other than this webinar)

A. If you’re looking to learn more about Azure Stack, it would be best if you start by learning more about Azure. This is because managing Azure Stack is so similar to Azure, learning how to handle Azure, will help you with Azure Stack when you’re ready to deploy it. If you’re looking to focus on individual features, it is recommended that you focus on ARM (Azure Resource Manager) before focusing on other items. With that said, Microsoft has a lot of training materials about Azure and ARM, and even has an online virtual academy with some resources HERE

Q. Microsoft has already talked about scaling the solution up from the existing planned deployments, are there any mentioned plans to scale the solution down?

A. The smallest that Azure Stack scales down too is 4 nodes, with no mentioned plans to go below that. Due to the nature of the solution and what it’s capable of delivering, if 4 nodes is not small enough, it’s recommended to host the workloads directly in Azure instead.

Q. Will it be more resource efficient to host PaaS workloads of IaaS workloads in Azure Stack?

A. While the final numbers and pricing would tell you for sure, at this point it looks like PaaS will be the more efficient route (Like Public Azure). This is because PaaS services are inherently more efficient than IaaS as you’re not having to support an individual underlying OS for each workload.

Q. What are the differences between the different switch types in Azure Stack.

A. The Aggregate switch acts as an aggregation layer for all the different TOP switches to connect to. The TOR Switch is a top-of-rack switch that the physical hosts connect to, and the BMC switch is a switch that is used by the baseboard management controllers in the hosts for things like auto-power-on and power off, and patching.

Q. Can I use Altaro VM Backup to protect workloads running on Azure Stack?

A. At release Microsoft is not opening APIs or providing a way for 3rd party vendors to provide backup services inside of the stack. However, it is suspected (but not confirmed) that they will open a marketplace for MAS, much like they have for Azure. Through this backup vendors could deploy methods for protecting Azure Stack based workloads. We will be watching this closely and will be sure to notify you via the Altaro blog of any major product enhancements centered around this.

Q. Am I able to use an Azure Stack based storage account for hosting offsite backups with Altaro VM Backup?

A. Yes! You can connect to an Azure Stack based storage account just as you would connect to a storage account hosted in public Azure. All you need to do is follow the instructions posted in the offsite backup location section of the application and cut and paste in your connection string for the storage account.

Wrap-Up

Well that wraps up things for August’s webinar! Be sure to keep an eye out on this space, as we’ll be posting more information about Azure Stack as our authors find it interesting and of use to you!

As always, if there was a question you have that wasn’t answered, or you thought of a follow-up question, be sure to use the comments section below and we’ll be sure to get you your answer ASAP.

Thanks for attending, and we hope to see you for the next one!

4 Important Azure IaaS features Webinar – Q & A Follow-Up

4 Important Azure IaaS features Webinar – Q & A Follow-Up

Hello Everyone!

On July 18th, we put on a webinar with Aidan Finn regarding Azure IaaS and Hybrid Cloud. The webinar was well attended, and we got some great questions and feedback throughout the session. As is our norm for webinars this post contains the following below:

  • A recording of the webinar in it’s entirety
  • A link to the slide deck used
  • A full list of the questions and their associated answers.

If you have any follow-up questions be sure to use the comments section below and we’ll be sure to get you an answer!

Watch Webinar – 4 Important Azure IaaS Features for Building your Hybrid Cloud

Get a Copy of the Slide Deck

A copy of the slide deck can be found HERE

Q & A

Q: If there is a trackable pending disaster such as a hurricane or a war, will Microsoft proactively move data and workloads to another Azure Datacenter Region?

A: The short answer here is no, that is because Microsoft leaves it up to the customer to design and architect the solutions over several datacenter regions yourself if you need that kind of failover and redundancy. Microsoft will do no syncing of data between datacenters on their own in this regards. You have to set it up yourself.

Q: Is it possible to select managed or un-managed for disks during the creation of a new VM in Azure?

A:  It is. In the storage section under step 3 of the VM’s creation you have the option of selecting managed or unmanaged storage.

Q: Is it possible to change from un-managed to managed storage at a later time?

A:  Yes! There are a few powershell cmdlets that can do this and the process is fairly quick. More information on this can be found HERE.

Q: Does an MSDN subscription allow you to do some testing with Azure?

A: Yes. You get various credits depending on your subscription level. You can find more information on this HERE

Q: When a host “warm reboots” in Azure, how do the VMs stay online? How do they get resources?

A: The answer here is they don’t stay online, however the downtime is only 15 to 30 seconds, so it’s nearly unidentifiable unless you’re running a very connectivity sensitive application.

Q: How can I keep track of which services are available in what regions?

A: Microsoft keeps a list of this HERE.

Q: Is it possible to use Nested Virtualization in Azure?

A: It is! This feature is usable with the newly available D_v3 and E_v3 VMs. (NOTE: May only be available in certain regions at this time)

 

Thanks for all your questions! See you at the next webinar!