Microsoft introduces Azure Stack for HCI

Azure Stack is great for your existing hardware, so Microsoft is covering the bases with a turnkey solution.

Microsoft introduces Azure Stack for Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) hardware.
Thinkstock/Microsoft

Microsoft has introduced Azure Stack HCI Solutions, a new implementation of its on-premises Azure product specifically for Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) hardware.

Azure Stack is an on-premises version of its Azure cloud service. It gives companies a chance to migrate to an Azure environment within the confines of their own enterprise rather than onto Microsoft’s data centers. Once you have migrated your apps and infrastructure to Azure Stack, moving between your systems and Microsoft’s cloud service is easy.

HCI is the latest trend in server hardware. It uses scale-out hardware systems and a full software-defined platform to handle virtualization and management. It’s designed to reduce the complexity of a deployment and on-going management, since everything ships fully integrated, hardware and software.

It makes sense for Microsoft to take this step. Azure Stack was ideal for an existing enterprise. Now you can deploy a whole new hardware configuration setup to run Azure in-house, complete with Hyper-V-based software-defined compute, storage, and networking.

The Windows Admin Center is the main management tool for Azure Stack HCI. It connects to other Azure tools, such as Azure Monitor, Azure Security Center, Azure Update Management, Azure Network Adapter, and Azure Site Recovery.

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“We are bringing our existing HCI technology into the Azure Stack family for customers to run virtualized applications on-premises with direct access to Azure management services such as backup and disaster recovery,” wrote Julia White, corporate vice president of Microsoft Azure, in a blog post announcing Azure Stack HCI.

It’s not so much a new product launch as a rebranding. When Microsoft launched Server 2016, it introduced a version called Windows Server Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC), which was built on the Hyper-V hypervisor, and says so in a FAQ as part of the announcement.

"Azure Stack HCI is the evolution of Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) solutions previously available from our hardware partners. We brought it into the Azure Stack family because we have started to offer new options to connect seamlessly with Azure for infrastructure management services,” the company said.

Microsoft introduced Azure Stack in 2017, but it was not the first to offer an on-premises cloud option. That distinction goes to OpenStack, a joint project between Rackspace and NASA built on open-source code. Amazon followed with its own product, called Outposts.

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