My take on Azure Stack HCI

I never really do opinion posts, but when I started writing this.. text just kept coming.. enjoy 🙂 So the word is officially out. Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) is going to be rebranded to Azure Stack HCI for Windows Server 2019. When I first heard about it I was, probably just like you, surprised and confused. I mean, what has Azure Stack to do with Windows Server and Storage Spaces Direct?

A more consistent story

When I gave it a few hours and discussed this with some knowledgeable folks it started to make more sense to me. The last few years Windows Server did not got the attention it deserved. The new features were awesome and the story was good but still the new Windows Server releases did not make waves like they used to. Everything is cloud now-a-days and everyone already moved to it. No need to modernize your datacenter right? Many C-level people got inspired by the cloud developments and thinking they need to get there ASAP to make their IT better and stopped investing in on-premises infrastructure. They are coming back from it now and figured out that “Cloud is not a place but a model”. Your company, IT personnel and workloads have to be ready to move to the cloud. Of course you could lift-and-shift your virtual machines but then you’ll be using the cloud as a place, which comes at it’s price. Microsoft needed a way to show that on-premises & hybrid world is alive and kicking. Yes, Azure Stack is a on-premises product and enables hybrid cloud and enabling the same cloud model as Azure. But Azure Stack does not fit all needs. From marketing perspective Windows Server seems discontinued, but with the rename of WSSD to Azure Stack HCI Microsoft is filling the gap with customers who were unaware how hybrid Windows Server 2019 really is, where it stands in the portfolio and what great benefits you get from it.    

The image has the term ‘virtualized applications’ which is a little vague to me. It makes it seem it can only run applications in virtual machines. I miss the mentioning of the broad SDN stack where we can do load-balancing, firewalling etc., the mentioning of the container capabilities now also expanding to the Windows Subsystem for Linux. In other words, we can run Kubernetes clusters which can manage Windows and Linux containers on the same host.

With Azure Stack you cannot touch the infrastructure, with Azure Stack HCI you can.

Azure Stack is a turn-key solution where you cannot touch the infrastructure. You will get a portal to manage the entire environment. You have (almost) the same abilities as in Azure, but also the limitations. If you really need the consistency of Azure and can live with not being able touch the infrastructure. In other words, you can run your entire workload in Azure. You are save to go forward with Azure Stack. If Azure Stack does not fit your needs, you need to take a look at Azure Stack HCI. With Azure Stack HCI you can manage and control your own hardware and OS. You are in full control. It also included many Hybrid cloud features which connect seamless to Azure. Make use of completely orchestrated Disaster Recovery to an other site or Microsoft Azure using Azure Site Recovery. Stop using tape backup and store long-term on Azure Storage using Azure Backup Server. Use Azure File Sync to extend on-premises storage to Microsoft Azure without anyone noticing it.

“Windows Server  / Hyper-V  is Dead”

Does not seem like it. It supports Microsoft Azure and Azure Stack and will continue to do so. Not every customer is cloud-fit today and not every customer will be there in 5 years. The future for Windows Server, Storage Spaces Direct and Hyper-V seems bright.

“System Center is Dead”

Does not seem like it. System Center 2019 just GA’d with features that are in sync with Windows Server 2019. Development there has not stopped but is keeping up with the innovation like Hyper-Converged Infrastructure and Software-Defined Networking. What Microsoft solution are enterprise customers going to use to manage their on-premises environment?
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If you have any questions or feedback, leave a comment or drop me an email.

Darryl van der Peijl  

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