Azure Stack as an turnkey solution is that the right approach from Microsoft?

Earlier last week it was announced that Azure Stack will be deliverd as a turnkey solution duing 2017 via Dell, HPE and Lenovo systems. Now this came as a disappointment to many that they now could not be able to run Azure Stack on their existing hardware, since many have started to look forward to the release of it. Now Microsoft learned alot from the CPS solution they had with Dell, they got alot of customer feedback and tok it a bit further.

Now to me, the desicion to make it a turnkey solution makes alot of sense, because Microsoft wants to deliver services outside of just the Cloud management  stack which (Windows Azure Pack, deliveries today). They want to deliver a full Azure experience, and having full control of the infrastructure from one fabric, which is what Azure actually does today.

Don’t get me wrong, Azur e the cloud solution runs using commodity hardware which is more a fully software-defined datacenter solution, so now why lock ourselves in with three specific vendors in this case? This is because Microsoft wants to make sure that:

  • We get the optimal performance! (Have tested, validated existing hardware it makes it easier for Microsoft to ensure performance, stability, and feature validation)
  • That you get full lifecycle orchestration (Microsoft’s vision is that we have the ability to do full fabric management which includes doing  BIOS, BMC, NIC firmware, Drive firmware, OS patches etc from a single solution which wouldn’t be feasible having support for all the different hardware vendors out here and making sure that all hardware patches works across different scenarios.
  • That you get the right help! making sure that you get a single-point of contact for support both on the hardware and the software to ensure if enterrprises who deploy AzureStack runs into issues, it makes it easy to isolate and troubleshoot further if the HCL is limited to specific vendors and hardware.

Now many is think that this is going to hurt the AzureStack adoption,  I on one hand am not so sure about that, of course it is going to exclude some of the smaller service providers which cannot affoard the solution or have some company policy about signing up with a specific vendor.

If we for instance take a closer look at Nutanix and what they are doing, they have taken a similar approach. When they started selling their product, instead of supporting all hardware vendors out there, they focused on a single hardware vendor (SuperMicro) and made sure that their product worked rock solid on that particular hardware, and also being able to deliver one-click updates to (firmware, BIOS, BMC and so on) And as of now is the largest growing infrastructure vendor on the market, even though it now only has Dell, Lenovo and SuperMicro OEM, did that hurt the Nutanix adoptaion in the marked? maybe but now it is known for having one of the best tech-support in the market of HCI, and Microsoft is looking at “borrowing” the same route to the marked.

But of course there are still some things that needs to be available in AzureStack to ensure that their cloud infrastructure is going to be used in larger enterprises

* Scaleability
It needs to be able to scale automatically within an existing fabric, without minimum interruption to the fabric.

* Top of the line support
There are alot of new components coming in play in AzureStack, RDMA, Storage Spaces Direct, Networking VXLAN and so on, so the support teams needs to be properly trained on the new features.

* Robust
Since Microsoft is betting alot of these customized appliances, it needs to be proper tested since Microsoft will also take control of the patching of the entire fabric

* Easy licensing
Since little is known of the Azure Stack licensing, it should be an easy monitoring metric which takes care of the licensing of both the fabric and the guest components running on top of it, or atleast have a proper licensing and/or maybe billing API included into the Stack.

* Customization and mixing appliances
One size does not fit all, there should be “plenty” of room to customize within a specific AzureStack appliance, where some might need more memory, some need more storage space and some need more storage speed, and GPU support and so on.


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