Microsoft’s Azure Stack TP2 Further Strengthens the Hybrid Azure Public / On-prem Environment

Azure Stack Technical Preview 2 (TP2) was announced at the Microsoft Ignite Conference at the end of September (2016), a MAJOR update from the TP1 release earlier this year focusing on extending the features and capabilities of Azure Stack as it progresses toward a formal release next year. 

A quick primer on what Azure Stack is for those reading up on Azure Stack for the first time.  In short, Azure Stack is Microsoft’s Azure public cloud environment that organizations can setup and run on-premise in their own datacenters.  Unlike something like Amazon Web Services that is a cloud-only solution where you have to import and export configurations and environments between your existing on-premise datacenter and AWS, Microsoft’s Azure Stack provides the same platform between the public cloud, hosted providers, and on-premise providers for the simplicity of building, configuring, and moving workloads between private and public clouds.  The Hybrid model of on-premise datacenters and public cloud services is a huge focus for enterprises that I covered in my initial February 2016 blog post introducing Azure Stack (http://www.networkworld.com/article/3037483/cloud-computing/truly-understanding-microsoft-s-azure-stack.html).

azure portal comparison

Azure Stack / Azure (public) Portal Comparison

In this TP2 rendition of Azure Stack, Microsoft made some significant improvements to the platform, here’s what is new/better:

  • Ability to install the Azure Gallery to Azure Stack that allows an easier platform to move marketplace items that have already been created for Azure (public) to be installed on Azure Stack (on-premise), and vice-versa
  • Seamless ability to create Windows and Linux virtual machines on Azure Stack just like Microsoft has made easily available in Azure (public) for years
  • Highly effective redundancy and auto-recoverability of the Azure Stack environment, effectively creating a very stable and dependable Azure Stack testing and development environment
  • Simplified VPN Gateway connectivity into and out of the Azure Stack environment, providing Azure Stack to Azure Stack connectivity between environments
  • Integrated Key Vault functionality in Azure Stack for managing keys and certificates, critical in truly providing security in an environment spanning on-premise resources as well as cloud-based resources
  • Extended Monitoring and Management extensions included in Azure Stack to expand beyond just testing components of Azure Stack, but also providing the foundation of Azure Stack as a hosted platform environment

As with Azure Stack TP1, I’ve had the opportunity to build, configure, and run Azure Stack TP2 for the past month walking through over a dozen scenarios in the updated platform.  I’d suggest starting with the Azure Stack documentation that Microsoft has posted that provides step-by-step guidance on building and configuring an Azure Stack environment:  https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/azure-stack/ 

Core scenarios to work with in testing out Azure Stack:

  • Azure Stack / Azure (public):  Build a resource (like a virtual machine) in Azure (public) and in Azure Stack, validate the similarities in the process of creating instances in the cloud and on-premise
  • Script Implementations:  Build the same resource (virtual machine) using PowerShell on-premise (Azure Stack) and in the cloud (Azure (public)) and compare scripts (exact same process, exact same script!)
  • Test out Platform as a Service (PaaS):  Migrate an IIS Web application to an Azure Stack WebApp running PaaS.  Consider the simplicity of building and scaling applications in PaaS as opposed to having to build and manage core operating systems in virtual machines and application servers to do the same in a VM or IaaS model

These are just a few of the things that can be done in Azure Stack to validate both the simplicity of working in a scalable Azure-based environment, and  the similarity (the identical look, feel, and functionality) between Azure (public) and Azure Stack (on-premise).

While Azure Stack will eventually be shipped pre-configured from certified hardware vendors like Dell, HP, and the like in multi-host configurations, Azure Stack TP2 can still be installed and configured on a SINGLE host server in test lab environments.  This is a great opportunity for anyone working with server systems and cloud technologies to fiddle with Azure Stack to get hands-on experience while the platform is still readily accessible for self-learning experiences.

Some great options for enterprises to plan for and test in the latest release of Azure Stack.

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