New Azure Stack blends data center with cloud apps

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Azure Stack combines PaaS and IaaS to give Microsoft shops a streamlined way to manage and deploy legacy and cloud apps
Hoping to bolster its cloud strategies on a number of fronts, Microsoft debuted a sweeping set of products… and services spanning Azure, Office 365 as well as upcoming versions of Windows Server and desktop.

What captured the attention of many of Microsoft Ignite 2015’s 23,000 attendees here this week was Azure Stack, which is intended to deliver both infrastructure as a service and platform as a service to large data centers. This allows IT professionals to blend enterprise-class legacy applications, such as Exchange, SharePoint and SQL Server, with modern distributed applications and services that can all be managed from a single location.

The new offering, which works with the recently released Azure Resource Manager, helps IT administrators deliver more consistent application deployments when they are provisioned to the Azure public cloud or Azure Stack based in a data center. This allows users to write an application once and deploy them later, company officials said.

Users here who grapple with issues involving the melding of old and new enterprise applications were heartened by the news, but want more technical details.
I have to think this is an ideal solution for those with heavy investments in Microsoft legacy apps and platforms,” said Jeff Haggerty, an IT administrator with a bank in Evanston, Ill. “But how they manage this combination [of legacy and modern applications] is what I am waiting to see.”

In essence, Azure Stack is a meld of Windows Server 2016 Azure Service Fabric and Azure Pack, the latter a selected set of Azure features normally available to large enterprises. Besides combining Windows Server and Azure features, Azure Stack includes an improved Azure portal and Azure Resource Providers.

Azure Stack is the functional equivalent of OpenStack for Windows, according to Carl Brooks, an analyst with 451 Research, based in New York. It makes a Windows server look like Azure through a combination of several existing features, including Azure Pack and Azure Service Fabric, which is the “secret sauce that makes Azure scalable and manageable across more than one data center,” he said The strategy is similar to VMware’s attempts to have a seamless transition between on-premises servers and vCloud Air, Brooks said. Microsoft’s goal is to be the default external service provider with Azure functioning as the server, hypervisor, orchestrator and interface.

This makes Azure more open — with the caveat that you must buy Windows Server.

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