Microsoft updates Azure Stack HCI

Microsoft is playing catch up VMware and Nutanix by adding more features to its Azure cloud services via on-premises hardware and software.

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Microsoft has updated its Azure Stack HCI software, an on-premises version of its Azure cloud services to try and catch up with hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) leaders VMware and Nutanix.

Hyperconverged infrastructure is where compute, storage, and networking are all tightly integrated on the same server in a cluster. The tight hardware and software integration makes it easier to deploy than having to configure the parts separately.

Azure Stack HCI was launched in 2019 and is built on Windows Server 2019 Datacenter, Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization software, Storage Spaces Direct software-defined storage, and software-defined networking.

The new version, which has been available for preview since summer 2020 and generally available earlier this month, adds new features, including stretch clustering, hybrid capabilities, centralized management, and integration with Azure Arc, Microsoft’s hybrid cloud and multi-cloud management tool.

While you can buy HCI software from multiple vendors, including market leaders Nutanix and VMware, and install it yourself, Microsoft requires organizations to buy the hardware product from a list of 24 certified solutions vendors, including Dell, Lenovo, and DataON.

Microsoft also announced that it has started a new independent-software vendor support for Azure Stack HCI with Altaro Software, Commvault, Datadog, Veeam and Veritas, which are now operable with Azure Stack HCI.

Azure Stack HCI is designed to let organizations run their applications on Azure software on-premises while also having connections to Azure software-as-a-service solutions. Virtualized applications can be easily moved back and forth between on-prem and the cloud.

It is intended for a variety of use cases, such as software migration to the cloud, on-prem modernization, high-performance SQL database workloads, and disaster recovery via the stretch-clustering feature, which lets organizations set up failover servers.

Azure Stack HCI is also intended for data-center consolidation and modernization because it allows for consolidation of hardware and the retirement of legacy SAN storage to reduce footprint and total cost of ownership. It’s also affordable enough (relatively speaking) to modernize remote and branch offices, retail stores, and field sites.

For people still working in offices, Azure Stack HCI supports virtual desktops on-premises with low latency. Another new feature is Azure Arc integration, where customers can use Azure Arc to monitor multiple clusters and view and manage VMs running on Azure Stack HCI.

Azure Stack HCI 20H2, as it is formally known, is available for download from Microsoft and from hardware partners.

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