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MS Azure Stack. It's like Azure Pack but with even more cloudiness
System Center sidelined in Microsoft's latest offering
What's in Azure Stack?
The features of Azure Stack are also more up-to-date, and it uses the controversial newer Azure Portal, which is more capable but slower and harder to use than what it replaces. However, most of what you can do through the portal you can also do through PowerShell scripts, so this is an incentive to move forward with automation.
Azure Stack is not the entirety of Azure, of course. What you get falls into three categories:
- Infrastructure services, including virtual machines, storage and virtual networks.
- Application services, including Azure Service Fabric, which is a newly announced microservices platform, Azure App Service for easily scaled web applications, and Azure Service Bus for application messaging.
- Azure Resource Manager, where a “Resource” is a group of all the Azure resources and services that together form an application. An Azure Resource supports role-based access control, so you can assign permissions across the whole group.
It also supports templates that define the resources, making this part of an “infrastructure as code” play, since these templates fit nicely with configuration management services like Chef, Puppet, and/or PowerShell’s Desired State Configuration feature.
There is plenty of stuff that is in Azure but not in Azure Stack, including DocumentDB NoSQL database, Azure Machine Learning and Stream Analytics, Media Services, Backup and Site Recovery, and lots more. The full details will await the first preview later this year.
Azure Stack is meant to be close enough to Azure though that Resource Manager templates can be deployed unchanged either to the Stack or to Azure itself. The further thinking is that third-parties can offer applications which have similar flexibility, so that both Azure and its on-premises variant can be part of the same ecosystem.
Visual Studio 2015 will have a deploy to Azure wizard that supports both Azure Stack and the public Azure cloud.
Deployment choices in Visual Studio 2015
The long-term implications of Azure Stack bear some reflection. Maintaining compatibility between public and on-premises implementations of Azure sounds like a burden, even though it only applies to a subset of features. This could be detrimental to the pace of improvements, and Microsoft’s ability to take advantage of cloud-scale innovations that cannot be replicated on-premises.
It contrasts with Amazon's approach to its cloud services, which the company puts forward as a new kind of computing that can only work at the scale of public cloud.
The extent to which Azure Stack will be taken up is also an open question. It will no doubt integrate with System Center to some extent, just as System Center integrates with Azure today, but anyone happy with how System Center and SCVMM works may want to avoid it.
On the other hand, bearing in mind Microsoft’s Azure-first philosophy, Azure Stack will be the best way to keep pace for those who resist a move to Azure, but want its deployment and scalability benefits, within the limits of what on-premises (and Microsoft's platform) can offer.
More information on Azure Stack is here.®