Microsoft Azure Stack is a fairly new feature set to complement the Azure Platform, however, Azure Stack isn’t quite the usual feature addition to the Microsoft Azure Platform. Azure contains features such as App Service (Web Apps, Logic Apps, Mobile Apps, API Apps), Storage (Blobs, Tables, Queues), Virtual Machines, Virtual Network, Load Balancer, VPN Gateway, Management Portal, Key Vault, and Azure SDK. Until now, when a new feature was released for Microsoft Azure it was hosted like the previous list; in the Azure cloud within Microsoft data centers. Azure Stack changes this; it changes EVERYTHING! With Microsoft Azure Stack, you will now be able to host all the Azure services I just listed within your own Enterprise datacenter; within your private cloud. Azure Stack brings with it a huge innovation to the hybrid-cloud ecosystem. This article will describe exactly what this means for Developers, IT Pros and the rest of the Enterprise.

Hybrid-cloud Evolved

The Hybrid-cloud derives out of the usage of both Cloud-based and On-premises servers and resources to host applications and other infrastructure used by an organization. Before the evolution of Microsoft Azure Stack the Azure cloud resource and on-premises resource management were different, requiring separate deployment scripts and potentially significant code changes to move systems either from Azure to on-premises or on-premises to Azure.

With the release of Microsoft Azure Stack, it is now possible to use the same deployment and development tools to build and deploy applications and infrastructure that resides either in the Microsoft Azure Cloud or within the Enterprise On-premises Data Center. This brings the “code once, run anywhere” concept to Cloud Computing; thus blurring the lines between the Public and Private Cloud.

write once, deploy to Azure or Azure Stack

Azure documentation

While bringing the Private Cloud (on-premises data center) closer to the Public Cloud (Azure cloud) it helps to think about Azure Stack as an extension to the Microsoft Azure platform. Azure resources are no longer tethered to Microsoft data centers, and can be hosted within your on-premises data center. All of this is enabled using a familiar experience using the same IT Pro and Developer tools your IT Team is already using to configure, deploy and build Microsoft Azure solutions.

IT Pro and Developer Experience

Both Developers and IT Pros have heard the “write once, run anywhere” slogan pitched to them for over 20 years now with development platforms like Java and .NET Framework. Now, the Azure Stack promise of “write once, deploy to Azure or Azure Stack” is bigger than that older promise. Just as an application built to run on Windows Server can be deployed to any Windows Server, so will applications and systems built to run on Microsoft Azure be deployable to Microsoft Azure Stack. This is a broader platform promise in the scope of Operating Systems and Infrastructure; instead of Development Tools.

The power of Azure Stack being an extension to the Microsoft Azure platform comes from the usage of either the same or familiar tools across both. This enables both IT Pros and Developers to use their existing Microsoft Azure knowledge and skills to manage, configure and deploy solutions to Microsoft Azure Stack. Saving on training costs is big, but saving on longer term maintenance costs is a huge key benefit to the overall Microsoft Azure Platform with the integration of Azure Stack.

Here are some highlight from the Azure Stack documentation for both IT Pros and Developers:

  • Familiar Portal for Azure Stack that uses the same code as the Azure Management Portal
  • Develop and Deploy to Azure Stack using the same tools as Microsoft Azure
  • Ability to mix IaaS and PaaS services from both Azure Stack and Microsoft Azure within the same solution
  • Consistent API for automating development, deployment and operational activities that can used across both Azure Stack and Microsoft Azure
  • Ability to deploy and configure all the resources for a solution in a single, coordinated operation through the Portal or SDK code
  • Support for Templated deployments what work for different environments such as Testing, Staging and Production
  • Role based access control, usage and auditing capabilities across all deployed cloud resources

Supported Features

The Microsoft Azure platform contains a very large set of features. Not all the Microsoft Azure features have been announced to be supported on Azure Stack. However, the list of features announced to be supported when Azure Stack hits General Availability (GA) release is fairly large for an initial release.

Here’s a list of the Azure Stack features coming in GA:

  • Compute – Virtual Machine (including extensions & availability sets), Service Fabric
  • Data & Storage – Blobs, Tables, Queues
  • Networking – Virtual Network, Load Balancer, VPN Gateway
  • Mgmt. & Security – Microsoft Azure Portal, Key Vault
  • Web & Mobile – App Service (Web Apps, Logic Apps, Mobile Apps, API Apps)
  • Developer Services – Azure SDK

As you can see, this list is quite extensive even if it’s missing things like Cloud Services, DocumentDB and Service Bus. The Microsoft Azure team has definitely been working hard to bring all these features with the release of Microsoft Azure Stack so they can be hosted within On-premises, Enterprise data centers.

More information

Microsoft has released the “Taking the cloud to your datacenter” white paper on Microsoft Azure Stack providing a fairly comprehensive overview of what Azure Stack is. Additionally, the Azure documentation has been expanded to include many articles on working with Azure Stack.

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