March 28, 2016
Over the past five or so years, organizations have been migrating their data and compute into public cloud environments like Microsoft Azure. Azure promises nearly unlimited resources and capacity to power virtually any workload or development testing imaginable with a pricing model that scales with how much you use. Suddenly, on-premise data centers are no longer the obligatory burden we all knew them to be. Companies can use the public cloud to host some or even all of their applications and create unparalleled mobility and agility in technological resources.
So, when Microsoft releases the Azure Stack and purports to put the Azure cloud back on-premise, it can raise a few eyebrows. If one of the main benefits of the cloud is eliminating on-premise architecture, why would Microsoft build a solution that reverses that value?
What is the Azure Stack?
Before we tackle this question, we should first be clear as to what the Azure Stack is exactly. Simply put, the Azure Stack is a hybrid cloud platform product. Installed on your hardware on-premise, Azure Stack is designed to function as an intermediary between the Azure Cloud and your on-premise data center.
The Public Cloud on Your Terms
The question still stands, why would you bring the Azure Stack into your data center instead of just using the Azure Cloud? It’s about taking small steps. The Azure Stack is designed to facilitate the cloud transition at the consumer’s pace and allow organizations to keep one foot in the cloud and one foot in the traditional on-premise model. It is, in essence, an instance of the Azure Cloud but located in your office or colocation instead of in a far-off Microsoft data center. As described by Jeffery Snover, Chief Architect of Enterprise Cloud at Microsoft, “[Azure Stack] gives you the cloud on your terms.”
With cloud on your terms, organizations can experience a few inter-related benefits:
- Consistency: Snover uses the analogy of international travel to demonstrate the value of the Azure Stack. Imagine how much easier it would be to travel internationally if all the logistical variables between countries were the same—the same time zone, language, currency, cultural etiquettes. There’d be a seamless transition between countries, and you wouldn’t miss a beat. Azure Stack and Azure Cloud work in a similar way. They both operate on the same standardized architecture with the same portal, unified application model, and common development and operation (DevOps) tools. They call it a “write once, deploy to Azure or Azure Stack” approach.
- Ease of Development: Beyond just consistent languages, tools, and portals, having the public cloud ready to go for application development scenarios is a huge advantage. Organizations can control the precise requirements of their isolated development environment on-prem and burst into the cloud as needed for testing.
- Seamless Migration and Easy Redundancy: With consistency, the usual challenges in migration and redundancy disappear. Each application will be equally compatible with the Azure Stack on-premise and the Azure in the Cloud. Organizations can easily assign which applications will be hosted in Azure Cloud, on-prem, or both.
- Security: There are many myths about security vulnerabilities in the public cloud. Despite ample protections and safeguards in the public cloud, the idea of sensitive information on shared storage devices still gives some IT directors pause, or for compliancy and legal reasons could prevent a full migration. The Azure Stack enables organizations to have their cake, eat it, and even a hide away a smaller cake no one ever know was there. You can simply choose which data is moved into the cloud, allowing you to assuage concerns by keeping sensitive information on-premise.
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