Microsoft and Dell’s cloud in a box: Instant Azure for the data centre

A less painful way to run Microsoft’s private cloud

Migration from System Center private cloud is not straightforward

System Center still lurks underneath (especially its Virtual Machine Manager) as an essential component of the Azure Pack or CPS, but if you choose the CPS option, then admins should not have to tangle with it directly. That said, a CPS cloud is not the same as a System Center cloud, though they both use Hyper-V, Microsoft’s hypervisor. Migration from System Center private cloud is not straightforward.

Installing Azure Pack on your own hardware remains an option, but buying Dell’s preconfigured and validated offering is attractive given the saving in configuration time and cost, and the higher chance (one hopes) of getting something that works reliably. It should do, given Microsoft’s claim that CPS is similar to what runs on Azure itself, though the private version offers only a subset of Azure’s features.

The downside is that currently only one hardware supplier is available (Dell), which is unfortunate for companies that have standardised on another vendor. It is also an enterprise-only (or hosting provider) solution, though smaller scale manual deployments of Azure Pack are possible.

CPS is a shrewd move for several reasons. One is that the complexity and pain of administering System Center is one reason for VMware’s popularity, and CPS is a way of escaping some of it (of course System Center has many other functions).

The wider reflection is that running public cloud services has forced Microsoft to improve the administrative usability of its products, and we are now seeing this migrating back into the data centre.

Azure has complexity of its own, and the more it grows (Guthrie claimed over 300 new features or services in the last 12 months), the higher the risk of issues like API churn and inconsistent documentation which mar the Azure experience.

Another positive aspect is that CPS or Azure Pack lets users employ the same cloud APIs both for private and public cloud. The open source OpenStack [openstack.org/] offers some of the same advantages, since it supports Amazon Web Services (AWS) APIs for some services, but that is a long way from having the same vendor validate both a public and private cloud offering.

Using both public and private cloud can make sense. Social search specialist Foursquare built its business on AWS, but recently migrated its big data analytics to servers hosted in an Equinix data centre. The rest of its infrastructure remains on AWS, with a fast connection using AWS Direct Connect (Azure has an equivalent, called ExpressRoute). Foursquare claims lower costs and better optimisation as a result, illustrating that wholesale migration to public cloud is not always the most cost-effective solution.

Issues of compliance, data protection, autonomy and resilience are also drivers for private cloud.

More details on the CPS are meant to be available here, though at the time of writing this returns page not found, in a marketing masterstroke. ®

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