Windows Server spotted behind cloudy curtain as Microsoft unveils the next generation of Azure Stack HCI

Use your old-school skills while having native Azure integration

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Inspire Microsoft has announced an update to Azure Stack HCI as it continues to aim at customers who do not fancy a wholesale jump to the public cloud.

The rebranding victim took a bow last year as Microsoft gave Windows Server Software-Defined Datacenter a pasting with the Azure brush and Azure Stack HCI (hyperconverged infrastructure) was born.

At its newly virtual partner shindig, Inspire, Microsoft launched a preview of "the next generation" of the hybrid virtualization platform, which is aimed at integrating a customer's data centre with the company's cloudier products.

The theory goes that cloud holdouts can still use their hard-won Windows Server (or Linux) skills to manage things while also taking advantage of native Azure integration.

Microsoft is also including Extended Security Updates (ESU) for Windows Server 2008 virtual machines running on the platform.

A deployment wizard is used to set up an Azure Stack HCI cluster and deal with the connections to Azure (and its services, such as Azure Backup). While price/performance has traditionally been a benefit of the HCI approach, the per-core subscription model will need careful attention.

Microsoft, naturally, reckons that in a branch office scenario, an eight-core server with less than 16 VMs represents bonzer value for money.

Still, it should rattle along at a fair old pace. "Early benchmarking," according to Microsoft, shows the update in line with the "performance demonstrated with the first-generation Azure Stack HCI."

While Microsoft's chums, such as Lenovo, will happily sell hardware that matches the reference architecture defined for the platform, those customers eyeing the gear already ticking over in the their data centres will be delighted to learn that Azure Stack HCI will run on existing hardware "if it matches our validated node solution".

Alongside Azure Stack HCI, Microsoft is also tweaking Azure Migrate, including the ability to import and create assessments using uploaded Configuration Management Database data, and a public preview of Azure VMware Solutions assessments.

Also unveiled at Microsoft's event was the generally available version of the HashiCorp Consul Service (HCS) on Azure, which hit private beta last September. ®

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